More than a year after it was first announced, this week the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved the state’s newest solar incentive program, Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART), which provides declining incentives for up to 1600 MW of solar. The incentives are a fixed amount and vary by “block” and also decline over time. The program includes added incentives for systems that include features like energy storage, community solar and other location-based solar installations, such as brownfield developments.
By issuing the order, the DPU gave a green light for the launch of the program, which it says will save ratepayers $4.7 billion over current programs that include net-metering and solar renewable energy credits (SRECS), because the compensation amounts are lower with SMART.
Notably, under the order DPU rejected the distribution companies’ proposal for a cap that would have limited the amount of bill credits that individual customers could receive under community solar projects. DPU also rejected the distribution companies’ proposal to allow costs to be recovered through a fixed charge, instead requiring all ratepayers to contribute to costs through a volumetric charge as requested by many stakeholders and lowering the cost of the program for residential ratepayers.
Industry Stakeholders Optimistic
“The release of the SMART Order from the DPU, and the program’s implementation, will help get the Massachusetts solar market moving again,” said David Gahl, Director of State Affairs, Northeast for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
“Although we are still reviewing the Order details, we are pleased to begin this new chapter. We look forward to working with the Baker-Polito Administration to help Massachusetts reclaim its place as one of America’s leading solar states.”
“While historically a national leader on solar, the Massachusetts solar industry has slowed over the past two years. The issuance of the SMART Order is the critical step needed for solar to ramp up in the Commonwealth again,” said Janet Gail Besser, NECEC Executive Vice President.
"Today’s decision allows community solar to move forward and expand access to the 75 percent of residents in the Commonwealth who can’t place solar on their roofs,” said Brandon Smithwood, policy director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access.
"Solar projects have been stalled across the Commonwealth for more than a year now awaiting the launch of the SMART program, which will still be weeks from now. These projects will mean local investment, new jobs and property taxes, as well as a cleaner and more resilient energy system,” said Sean Garren, Senior Director, Northeast for Vote Solar. “We are still examining the details of this order, but are happy to see it moving forward and hope the SMART program will be implemented as quickly as possible."
“After many delays, this order from the DPU will help solar energy regain momentum across the Commonwealth,” said Mark Sylvia, President of the Solar Energy Business Association of New England. "As always, details matter; we are still reviewing the specifics, but are encouraged by this critical step in putting the Massachusetts solar industry back on track through the SMART program."