Massachusetts solar incentives

Switching to SMART: Massachusetts Solar Incentives on a New Path for 2018

Rhode Island Solar Solutions RI Solar Energy News

 

Massachusetts solar incentives

 

The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has released its plans for a new state-wide incentive program. It’s called the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) and it will replace the current (and very popular) SREC II program.

Recent updates from the DOER indicate that SMART will officially begin in early June 2018. Meanwhile, the SREC II program will end in late March to mark the transition.

In other words, there is a lot of change happening with Massachusetts solar incentives.

SMART is considerably different than the current SREC incentives. As many have pointed out, it’s not as lucrative for customers. But, that doesn’t mean the SMART program doesn’t have its merits. For now, let’s dive in and learn how Massachusetts solar incentives are changing.

Important: if you’re already entered into the SREC or SREC II program, nothing will change. Your 10-year incentive still applies and you will not be affected by its deadline in March 2018.

Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target: a quick summary of the new solar incentive program in MA

The goal of the SMART incentive is to add 1600 MW of solar power to MA. That’s more than double what MA has currently has in solar energy projects.

Let’s outline the main aspects which make this incentive unique.

  • It’s the first “fixed rate” Massachusetts solar incentive to date. The base rate for the incentive was decided in August 2017 by competitive auction. That figure is 0.17 kW. However, the base rate is only one part of the equation (more below).

 

  • The duration of the incentive is 10 years for smaller projects (less than 25 kW AC) and 20 years for larger commercial (greater than 25 kW, up to 5 MW maximum)

 

  • SMART is a “declining block” incentive program. The first block opens in June 2018 and will have the highest incentive rate. It will close once 200 MW have been installed throughout the state. Then the second block will open for the next 200 MW, but at a 4% decreased incentive rate. That model continues until the 1600 MW goal has been reached.

 

  • Each project under the SMART program calculates its incentive using a specific formula created by the DOER. Therefore, in addition to the base incentive of 0.17 kW,  each solar customer can increase their incentive rates by meeting certain criteria or choosing “adders” to their project.

A further look into how SMART calculates incentives rates for solar projects in MA

Each solar project under the SMART program calculates its incentive rate using a specific formula. That goes for both large commercial and residential installations.

The baseline incentive was decided by competitive auction in August 2017. But, ratepayers can increase their incentive rate in several ways.

Firstly, every solar customer receives a percentage of the 0.17 kW base rate depending on the size of their system. Generally, the smaller the system size, the higher percentage you receive on the base rate. Plus additional increases for low-income households.

For example, installations for low income with less than or equal to 25 kW will receive 230% of the base 0.17 kW incentive, equaling $0.3910.

The percentage will decrease as the system size increases.

  • Low income less than or equal to 25 kW AC = 230% (residential or small commercial)
  • Less than or equal to 25 kW AC = 200% (residential or small commercial)
  • Greater than 25 kW AC to 250 kW AC = 150%
  • Greater than 250 kW AC to 500 kW AC = 125%

And so on.

Each solar project can increase its SMART incentive with “adders”

Let’s pull back the curtain on the DOER’s mission with SMART. Unlike the current SREC program, SMART is designed to push commercial and residential customers to “think beyond the roof.” The accomplish this by including “adders” to the incentive rate equation. 

However, it’s pretty clear these “adders” aim to bolster diverse types of commercial projects more so than smaller residential systems.

So, what are these “adders?” They’re additional criteria that qualifies your project for increased incentive rates. That criteria breaks down into three sections:

  • Location of your solar installation
  • Energy user (who or what type of customer is purchasing solar)
  • Integrated energy storage

OK, so let’s quickly explain what goes into those sections.

  1. The location of your system doesn’t exactly mean it’s geographical positioning. It’s more about the location of your panels within the given project.
  • Solar canopy (carports, shade structures, etc.)
  • Rooftop
  • Landfill
  • Floating solar projects
  1. The “energy user” describes three different kinds of customers. If you fall into one or more of these categories, you may receive an increased incentive rate.
  • Community solar
  • Public entities or institutions
  • Low-income households or property owners
  1. Integrated energy storage means that you’ve installed a solar battery with your system. Basic requirements need to be met to increase your incentive, but generally speaking, a higher storage-to-solar ratio will give you a better rate.

Important: if you’re thinking about going solar under the SREC II program, you need to act fast. This incentive ends in March 2018 and is a considerably more lucrative. Installation projects take an average of 1-3 months and often get delayed due to winter weather. If you want to schedule an appointment, please fill out a contact form here.