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Massachusetts SMART Program of Solar Incentives

George Harvey

Massachusetts is in the final stages of implementing a new set of solar incentives, the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target, or SMART. Presentations are going on in Lenox and Amherst, as Green Energy Times is wrapping up its editorial work on the October issue. Until the new program is running, homeowners are still eligible for the SREC II program. The transition date has been set for November 26, 2018, according to an article at GreenTech Media (bit.ly/GTM-SMART).

The program is explained, though in language that is somewhat difficult to understand, by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources at a state government website (bit.ly/MA-SMART).

The SMART program will allow owners of solar systems to be paid fixed amounts for the energy produced, on a per-kilowatt-hour basis. The actual incentive portion of the payment is the amount over the net-metered price of the electricity that is needed to reach the fixed amount. This means that the owner of the system is guaranteed a price of at least the incentive amount of the electricity.

The incentives vary according to the size of the system, and they vary from one electric utility to another. A special incentive is given to owners of small photovoltaic systems if they have low incomes. Also, there are differing terms for the incentives.

Rate range per kWh

Term

Type of system

33¢ to 39¢

10 years

25 kW or less (low income)

29¢ to 34¢

10 years

25 kW or less

21¢ to 26¢

20 years

25 kW to 250 kW

18¢ to 21¢

20 years

250 kW to 500 kW

16¢ to 19¢

20 years

500 kW to 1,000 kW

14¢ to 17¢

20 years

1,000 kW to 5,000 kW

The SMART program has what is termed a “block” structure, which has an effect on the incentive amount. The first block has a 200-MW threshold, and when that amount of capacity is reached, the incentive amount will be reduced by 4%.

Another aspect of the SMART program that has an effect on the incentives is the type of installation of the solar system. For example, there is an additional amount given if the system is in the form of a solar canopy, is on a landfill, or has energy storage included.

Solar installers and their customers have been somewhat baffled by the SMART program’s details. While the solar part of the program has verged on clarity, the storage part has been nearly impossible incomprehensible. The reason for this appears to be that the program, which will be rolled out on November 26th, is not fully designed.

We talked with Claire Chang and John Ward, the owners of the Solar Store of Greenfield, to see what their understanding of the program is. Ward told us that they were frustrated by the fact that nearly every question they asked at public meetings was given the same answer, “We don’t know.”

Chang amplified that message. While agreeing that the state’s vision on the storage portion of a solar-plus-storage was obscure, she said the state also lacks vision on the solar component, saying “Given the lack of legislative initiative and gubernatorial leadership to raise net-metering caps, solar has been curtailed in Massachusetts over the last two years, and when the floodgates are lifted on November 26th, blocks 1 and 2 are likely to be filled nearly immediately. Since the compensation is reduced with each block, solar development will be put under pressure.”

Chang also had a message about the political nature of the problem, pointing specifically at the governor. She said, “Just because he’s not crazy does not mean he’s not a Republican.”

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