By Derek Newberry
After months of working group meetings and sorting through and reviewing hundreds of stakeholder comments, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has announced the state’s new solar incentive program called the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target or “SMART” plan. Department officials publicized the plan on Jan 31, 2017, and emphasized its goals to expand installed solar energy capacity by 1600 MW in Massachusetts in improved locations while also strengthening the stability and certainty of the solar financial market.
The SMART program will replace the current SREC-II program (Solar Renewable Energy Certificate) and encompass current net metering programs to create a staggered subsidy system where the government sets a price for each 200 MW “block” of installed capacity and compensates installers in dollars per kWh produced depending on size and location of the solar generation. Compensation or subsidy rates per installed block of 200 MW will decline by 4% each after the first installed 200 MW block and will be distributed through net metering benefits, an on-bill crediting mechanism, or a buy-all/sell-all rate for certain standalone facilities. Developers will receive a 10- to 20-year fixed compensation/incentive rate regardless of changes in future energy values. Additional subsidy options exist for installing solar in certain ideal locations such as low-income areas, brownfields, and landfills, and for low income, community, and built up areas. The program also includes certain land use requirements that limit environmental impact and compensation for energy storage development.
While the program will likely not be approved until at least next year, depending on the Department of Utilities review and feedback, the plan provides a more efficient and secure long-term solar subsidy plan. It also provides an effective option to further develop net-zero buildings and policy throughout the state to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate. USGBC Massachusetts will continue to closely watch the state’s SMART plan and advocate for its implementation. If interested in the exact details and calculations of the SMART plan’s subsidies, check out DOER’s full presentation on the final SMART program design.
Graph retrieved from DOER presentation on SMART.