DPU Orders Single Parcel Rule & Blanket Exception

On Thursday May 31, 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued orders in response to D.P.U. (17-22) ‘Inquiry into the Single Parcel and Subdivision Rules’.  The "Rooftop Blanket Exception” as issued in 17-22A was technically a win for the Massachusetts solar industry, in that the DPU finally created a blanket exception for multiple rooftop arrays on one parcel.

However, the limitations on this exception are so strict as to make the exception only available for a fraction of the applications that really need it (small installations where a delay of months and thousands of dollars of legal costs could nix a project).  10kW AC (single phase) and 25kW AC (three phase) is the *aggregate* limit per parcel.  For example: in a two unit, single phase condo, each unit could do a 5kW AC array—modestly helpful, but this will not address the majority of projects seeking an exception from the single parcel rule. All in all, the decision represents a lost opportunity to assist, or even boost, the continued growth of behind-the-meter residential solar in the Commonwealth.

The DPU also established a “multiple technologies” blanket exception.  This exception would allow more than one net metering facility on a single parcel if the facilities were each powered by a different renewable energy technology (e.g. solar, wind, anaerobic digestion).  There could be only one facility per technology (e.g. one solar, one wind, one anaerobic digestion) and the aggregate limit on net metered capacity on the parcel would be 2 MW, unless all the facilities are in the public net metering cap in which case the limit would be 10 MW.  It would not be permitted to have some of the facilities in the private cap, while the others were in the public cap. Finally, each facility must be separately metered.

It is worth noting that the DPU did heed the comments from SEBANE and other solar advocates and clarified that facilities on the same parcel would not have their capacity aggregated for credit calculation purposes.  This is theoretically helpful, but would seem to have limitations in its potential applicability.

D.P.U opened docket 17-22 in March 2017 with the intention of expanding the process for stakeholder input and resolve additional net metering matters beyond those that were addressed in a petition D.P.U. 16-117 filed in July 2016 by the “Solar Coalition” seeking blanket exemptions to net metering regulations and the Single Parcel Rule for small solar installations less than 60kW or less, and not aggregating to more than 2 MW in certain instances.  The Solar Coalition was led by PV Squared and Rich May, and comprised of several other SEBANE member companies, solar installers, municipalities and non-profit organizations seeking to democratize solar in the Commonwealth. 

Susan Howe