During the recent legislative session, Gov. Deval Patrick tried to persuade legislators to pass a bill that would have restructured the state’s incentives for solar energy. This was surprising, given his record of solar success. Policies he previously proposed, and that the Legislature approved, have produced a local industry that employs hundreds of people. The state now hosts 15,000 solar installations that can generate over 640 megawatts of clean electrical power.
Yet the governor could see problems on the horizon and moved aggressively to get ahead of them. He could see that limits (known as “caps”) on the amount of solar power that can qualify for financial incentives would likely cause a sudden stall in the growth of the state’s burgeoning solar industry. His bill would have removed those caps altogether. At the same time, he was hearing complaints from utilities and the business community that current incentives are too expensive. His bill would have provided for less generous, though more predictable, revenue streams for new solar projects.
But the bill did not gain the support it needed to pass. Solar businesses and advocates differed on whether any reform was needed. Utilities and business groups differed on whether the proposed reforms were still too generous.
This lack of consensus caused the Legislature to balk at restructuring the current incentives. Instead, it raised the caps, though only slightly, allowing solar development to continue at its current rate for another six months to a year. It also appointed a task force of representatives from all sides of the debate and asked for legislative recommendations by next spring. Despite what must have been a considerable disappointment, the governor signed the stopgap bill.