Massachusetts DPU Issues Order Defining “Facility” and “Unit”

In the Press · September 7, 2012

On August 24, 2012, The Massachusetts
Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued an order (the Order) that clarified
the terms "facility" and "unit" as used in the
Massachusetts Net Metering statute and regulation.

The regulation defines net
metering facilities as follows:

"Class II Net Metering Facility means
an Agricultural Net Metering Facility, Solar Net Metering Facility, or Wind Net
Metering Facility with a generating capacity of more than 60
kilowatts but less than or equal to one megawatt
;
provided, however, that a Class II Net Metering Facility of a Municipality or
Other Governmental Entity may have a generating capacity of more than 60
kilowatts but less than or equal to one megawatt per
unit
."

"Class III Net Metering Facility means
an Agricultural Net Metering Facility, Solar Net Metering Facility, or Wind Net
Metering Facility with a generating capacity of more than one
megawatt but less than or equal to two megawatts
;
provided, however, that a Class III Net Metering Facility of a Municipality or Other
Governmental Entity may have a generating capacity of more than one megawatt
but less than or equal to two megawatts per unit."

A renewable energy facility’s
eligibility for net metering hinges on meeting these definitions, specifically
the size requirements imposed per facility for private facilities and per unit
for public facilities. Until the Order there had been no direction from the DPU
on how to define these terms.

Before issuing the Order, the
DPU solicited public comments on how to define these terms, offering a number
of possible scenarios as to whether a net metering facility’s generating
capacity is determined by the amount of capacity associated with: (1) a single
meter, (2) a single parcel of land, (3) a single interconnection point on an
electric distribution system, or (4) some other criteria.

In the Order, and as part of
its analysis, the DPU stated that the generating capacity of a private net
metering facility may not exceed 2 MW. The DPU also set up criteria for
defining a facility using a three-pronged approach. Every facility must be:
   

  • Located
    on single parcel of land
  • Behind
    a single meter
  • Behind
    a single interconnection point       

The single parcel requirement was based on the suggestion of the Department of
Energy Resources (DOER) in creating a rebuttable presumption that any
subdivision after January 1, 2010 is invalid for eligibility purposes, and will
be treated as a single parcel for maximum capacity allowed (2
MW).   

In determining how to define a
"unit" for eligibility purposes, the DPU reviewed many submitted
comments and decided that a unit for wind net metering
facilities is defined as a wind turbine. For agricultural
net metering
facilities, a unit is a single piece of generating equipment
(i.e., its engine or turbine). The DPU determined that for public
net metering
solar projects, a "unit" is an inverter, provided
that a solar project developer may self-designate whether a project is a Class
II or Class III net metering facility – as long as the project meets the
required minimum number of inverters required .  

For example, if a 6 MW
municipal solar project seeks to qualify as a Class II net metering facility,
it would need at least six inverters (each assigned < 1 MW), whereas to
qualify as a Class III net metering facility, it would need at least three
inverters (each assigned > 1 MW).

Public entities (municipalities
and other governmental entities as defined in the regulation) may not, in any
event, exceed the overall 10 MW limit imposed under M.G.L. c. 164, § 139(f).
These definitions are effective immediately for all net metering facilities,
unless a project is either already operating as a net metering facility or at
an "advanced stage of development," which is defined as having an executed
interconnection service agreement as of August 24, 2012. Such facilities are
deemed exempt from the requirements of the Order.

If you would like additional information about
the Order, or want to learn more about renewable energy and energy efficiency regulations,
please contact Craig M.Tateronis at 617 456 8021 or ctateronis@princelobel.com.