Massachusetts has officially super-charged its solar potential. On August 25, 2017, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) filed the final version of SMART, the new solar power incentive program. SMART is a fixed-rate incentive, paid for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) produced by a solar system. The base rate, locked in for 20 years, has special “adders” (i.e., additional incentives) for carports, systems for low-income or public entities, battery storage and other onsite projects.
The program, designed to help Massachusetts meet state renewable energy targets, kicked off with a one-time competitive auction in the fall of 2017, which set the base incentive rate for all future SMART projects. The base incentive and the adders decline over time as more solar is installed and SMART “blocks” fill up.
DOER finalized the regulations in August, 2017, balancing input from many stakeholders including the solar industry, ratepayers and utilities. The final SMART program did not materially change from the earlier version announced in the spring of 2017—which means SMART is still valuable, predictable and on track to replace SRECs in 2018.
The few significant changes were largely solar-friendly:
- The one-time competitive auction's ceiling price was raised from $0.15/kWh to $0.17/kWh. That higher threshold meant more projects could participate in the auction , allowing for a higher base incentive rate.
- Solar-unfriendly caps on carports, battery storage and other adder-eligible onsite projects were replaced with a more measured approach.
- New adders were created for floating commercial solar power projects.
On September 13, 2017, the process moved forward again when Massachusetts utilities filed their draft plans for implementing SMART. Then, the Department of Public Utilities began their review of those plans. DOER completed updates to the official guidelines on January 22, 2018. Because SMART applications must include an approved interconnection agreement, and these agreements can take 8 to 10 months to approve, many of the first SMART projects are already under way.
Bottom line: The SMART solar power incentive is officially coming to MA, and it's better than ever for the future of solar power in the Commonwealth. Projects that start today have the best chance of receiving the best rates.