Since February of this year, when the president of the New England Clean Energy Council wrote to the editor of The Boston Globe asserting that “as recently begun in Massachusetts, policymakers must embrace modernization of the electric grid to enable people to get energy from many different sources, including solar and wind,” it has become even easier to argue that net metering is making progress in the state Aetna Corp.’s headquarters calls home.

For a general refresher on net metering and how it affects Massachusetts in particular, revisit our blog post from April, “What is a net metering cap, and how does it affect solar in Massachusetts?” We thought it’d be a good time to turn our focus back to net metering in Massachusetts, because last month, the Department of Public Utilities ordered Massachusetts electric distribution companies to modernize the grid.

A revamping of the electric grid, it’s believed, would bring infrastructure upgrades, new jobs, and a victory for clean energy to Massachusetts. It would make it possible for “customers to participate in how and when they consume energy,” says Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett.

Although some have their doubts about the significance of the DPU’s two-fold order, the news outlet of the state government website Mass.Gov and other local media calls it a milestone. A press release from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs reads, “With these orders, Massachusetts is the first state in the nation to require electric distribution companies to take affirmative and far-reaching steps to modernize the electric grid.”

In the pipeline is a 10 year grid modernization plan, and a companion order on time-varying rates, thought to reduce peak demand. A time-varying rate, as opposed to a flat rate, would require that utilities take into account the ever-fluctuating costs of electricity – which, as The Berkshire Eagle points out, can change dramatically depending on the time of day or year. Customers would then be better able to determine for themselves when to spend or save energy and money.

In that blog post from April, we reported on the beginnings of “the solar bill,” aka H.4185, “An Act relative to net metering.” The bill was filed on June 13, after sustained collaboration on the part of environmental groups, utility companies, and business organizations (led, reports Tom Plant for The Energy Collective, by Janet Gail Besser, VP of Policy and Government Affairs of the New England Clean Energy Council, the very same that wrote to the Globe last winter).

“An Act relative to net metering” gets rid of “arbitrary” net metering caps, thus avoiding the necessity of constantly renegotiating them as Massachusetts continues to develop its use of solar and other renewable energy sources; introduces a new incentive program to replace a “volatile” SREC (solar renewable energy certificate) program; and creates a minimum bill for net metering customers (to “prevent a customer from having a $0 electricity bill,” explains – which addresses a concern voiced by utilities claiming to have in mind their regular customers who don’t participate in net metering), in addition to other compromises between solar proponents and utility companies.

Will the DPU’s orders, considering the Patrick Administration’s undisguised support of solar energy and recent measures to make local communities more energy efficient, have enough influence to positively affect the fate of “An Act relative to net metering” as it stands? If Massachusetts is to claim to be the “first state in the nation” to “require” utilities to modernize the grid, utilities will have to know where to begin and how to go about modernization in a way that is not only environmentally sustainable, but also supportive to the industry.

More information about the incentive program and minimum bill, among other aspects of H.4185, can be found on the website of the Vote Solar Initiative.

For more from Aetna Corp. Re: Massachusetts energy policy, visit:

For more from Mass.Gov Re: Massachusetts energy policy, visit:

Jacy Everett
Director of Business Development
(800) 544-4836