The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) recently issued an order giving greater flexibility to renewable energy projects seeking to qualify for Massachusetts’ net metering program. Net metering allows the owner of a renewable energy project (such as wind or solar) to receive a retail credit for at least a portion of electricity it generates and feeds back into the grid. In a previous order, the DPU defined the terms facility and unit in order to provide guidance as to which projects can qualify for net metering in Massachusetts.  

The recent order confers on the DPU and local distribution companies flexibility to relax certain eligibility requirements for net metering.  In a previous order, the DPU made eligibility contingent on the generating facility being located on a single parcel of land, with a single point of interconnection, behind a single meter.  While these eligibility criteria offer clear, easily verifiable parameters for net metering projects, they can also inhibit the development of certain net metering projects, such as large public net metering facilities up to 10 MW, which may be safer and more reliable and efficient if interconnected to the electric grid at multiple points.

The DPU’s recent order declines to grant any blanket exemptions from the eligibility criteria, but it does allow individual exceptions to be granted when required for optimal interconnection.  A petition for an exception to the single parcel rule may now be filed with the DPU, and an exception to the single meter or single point of interconnection may now be sought from the local distribution company.  The DPU explained that local distribution companies are best situated to determine what constitutes optimal interconnection on their distribution system.  The order directs the distribution companies to apply a consistent standard in granting exceptions, but it declines to establish additional documentation requirements that must be submitted to the distribution companies. 

Along with their new authority to grant exceptions, the distribution companies have the responsibility to ensure that net metering services are provided only to eligible customers.  The DPU is requiring distribution companies to develop a means of evaluating all customers’ and facilities’ eligibility for net metering services at an early stage of project design.  The distribution companies must submit a joint proposal addressing how they will evaluate eligibility for net metering services and when they will communicate with customers about eligibility.