The Honorable Thomas A. Golden, House Chair
The Honorable Michael J. Barrett, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy
State House, Boston

Dear Chair Golden, Chair Barrett, and Committee Members,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association respectfully requests that your committee report favorably on H. 2900 and S. 1970, An Act relative to monthly minimum reliability contributions. This legislation would exempt municipal, low-income, community solar, and small-scale solar ratepayers from paying monthly minimum reliability contribution (MMRC) charges to investor-owned utility companies.

Massachusetts municipalities have been leaders in bringing renewable energy to their communities, including by siting solar energy projects on municipally-owned land and buildings. An exemption from paying additional unnecessary charges to investor-owned utility companies would further incentivize municipalities to take on solar projects and thus expand the renewable energy landscape in Massachusetts.

The renewable energy legislation enacted in 2016 (Chapter 75 of the Acts of 2016) allows investor-owned utilities to petition the Department of Public Utilities for permission to impose an MMRC on solar customers that receive net metering credits. These additional charges are assessed to distribute the “fixed costs of ensuring the reliability, proper maintenance, and safety of the electric distribution system” on all net metered solar customers. While the legislation allows the DPU to exempt or modify an MMRC for low-income ratepayers, there is no equivalent provision for municipalities that have invested or are considering investing in solar projects.

MMRCs could have a negative financial impact on both new and existing municipal solar projects. An unexpected MMRC changes the financial calculus for local governments that have planned for and used certain figures as the basis for their decision-making regarding the initiation of solar projects. These additional charges are also likely to be passed down to municipal solar customers through higher electric bills.

The MMA has consistently and strongly opposed any such additional charges on municipal solar customers, and with this bill we are advocating for a permanent exemption from the MMRC for new and existing municipal net metering customers. Municipalities want to continue to develop and host solar projects, so that the Commonwealth can maintain its long-standing reputation as the number-one state in energy efficiency (as voted for the 8th year in a row by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy). Any additional charges would stretch municipalities’ already tight budgets and may deter or prohibit communities from investing in this vital source of renewable energy.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony in favor of H. 2900 and S. 1970. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues in the Legislature to ensure that solar and other types of renewable energy remain a viable option for cities and towns. If you have any questions, or desire further information, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Ariela Lovett at 617-426-7272 or alovett@mma.org at any time.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO