Massachusetts SMART Solar Program: Complete Overview of New Incentive
Massachusetts’ extremely successful Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) II Program closed, but this doesn’t mark the end of the state’s commitment to clean energy. The Bay State, which has over 2.3 Gigawatts of installed solar generation, recently launched the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program.
This initiative will support an additional 1,600 MW of solar projects through tariff based incentives, which is expected to meet approximately ten percent of the state’s annual electricity needs.
The SMART Program, in addition to offshore wind farms and other clean energy initiatives, will help the Bay State meet their 40% Renewable Portfolio Standard by 2030. The State estimates that ratepayers will save around $4.7 billion in comparison to current programs.
Brief Overview of the MA SMART Program
Under the SMART Program, the state’s three investor-owned utilities, National Grid, Eversource, and Unitil, will directly compensate participating solar system owners for their solar power generation.
The program features a declining block structure that is capped statewide at 1600 MW in incentivized solar projects. Each utility supports a percentage of the program proportionate to the amount of electricity they distribute in the state.
This means that residents residing in a smaller utility’s coverage area may see the SMART Program end more quickly.
Rather than independently calculating a solar project’s net metering rate and program incentives, the SMART Program’s all-in-one compensation model combines both into a fixed amount.
According to program officials, “the incentive payment is calculated as the qualified tariff rate minus the energy value.”
This means that a project’s combined incentive amount is their SMART Program tariff minus their net metering rate.
SMART Based on a “Declining Block Structure”
Under the SREC II Program, solar system owners received certificates that were traded on a market. The value of these certificates was not set; rather, it’s dependent on market conditions and as such could fluctuate.
The SMART Program reduces uncertainty by providing owners with a specific incentive level per kWh of the generation that, for projects under 25 kW, lasts for ten years.
The average system size for residential solar is about 6 kW, so the vast majority of home solar projects would fall within this category.
Incentive levels under the SMART Program depend on which block an owner is accepted. For projects under 25 kW, the blocks are decided on a first come first serve basis.
The program has eight, 20 MW solar blocks that decline in value as they fill. Each subsequent block’s incentive declines by four percent, with the starting incentive amount varied by the utility.
The starting incentive for projects under 25 kW that do not qualify as low-income is listed below.
|Utility||Block 1 Incentive Rate|
|Unitil (Fitchburg Gas & Electric)||$0.31|
Project Adders Provide Bonus Incentives
The SMART Program includes provisions for “Adders,” eligible system features that increase the per-kWh incentive amount.
“(Adders) increase the amount of the incentive if features such as Energy Storage, Community Solar, or various location-based installations are proposed.”
– MA Department of Energy Resources (DER)
Here are a few Adders available to program participants:
- Low-income property owners with solar generation could receive an additional $0.03 per kWh.
- The solar generation that is paired with a battery may be eligible for an adder up to $0.076, depending on the size of the battery.
- Projects built on farmland can earn an additional $0.06 per kWh if the panels are angled and raised to allow crops or livestock to graze below.
How to Apply for the SMART Solar Incentive
Solar systems that are less than 25 kW and interconnected to one of the three investor-owned utilities are invited to complete the SMART Statement of Qualification Application on the SMART Program website.
Here’s how to apply for SMART:
- Sign your solar agreement with your solar installer
- Your installer will apply on the PowerClerk system
- SMART Program representatives will provide a Preliminary Statement of Qualification for the incentive
- Your installer will install and obtain interconnection to the grid for your system
- Your installer will submit the incentive claim online for your project
- SMART Program representatives will provide a final statement of qualification
- Your utility will begin incentive payments to you through the same structure as your net metering crediting system
For more information, be sure to reference the official program resources, such as the MA SMART Program Application Requirements Checklist.
There is no official deadline for this program as the closure is based on when all available blocks totaling 1600 MW have been filled. However, the SMART Program has already been extremely popular in its first month and may fill more quickly than expected.
3 Important Tips for Solar Shoppers in MA
- Take advantage of the SMART program as soon as possible. Because of the declining block structure of SMART, the sooner you can enroll in the incentive, the higher your rate will be!
- Get a solid understanding of the basics of going solar. Our Solar Starter Guide is a great place to begin if you’re brand new to solar. Our Best Solar Panels Guide discusses the key factors to consider when comparing panel options.
- Compile at least 3 different quotes from qualified installers. Homeowners should get as many options as possible to be sure they’re getting the best system for their home. Solar.com will provide three quotes from approved installers in your area, entirely free and remote. Get started by exploring our newly designed solar calculator.