Massachusetts SMART Solar Program: Complete 2023 Overview |

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Massachusetts SMART Solar Program: Complete 2023 Overview

In 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and the state’s three largest utilities launched the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program to encourage further rooftop solar installations after the extremely successful SREC II program closed.

Through the MA SMART solar program, the state’s three investor-owned utilities compensate solar owners for the electricity their systems produce. The program is one of several solar incentives available in Massachusetts that reduces the cost — and increases the savings — of installing a home solar system.

After early success, the SMART solar program doubled in size from 1,600 to 3,200 MW of capacity, thereby extending this incentive to many more homeowners.

In this article, we’ll explore how the SMART solar program works, the current incentive levels, and how to apply.

Connect with an Energy Advisor to see which solar incentives you qualify for.

Brief Overview of the Massachusetts SMART Program

Under the SMART Program, the state’s three investor-owned utilities, National Grid, Eversource, and Unitil, directly compensate participating solar system owners for their solar power generation.

Compensation is paid out monthly basis via mail or direct bank deposit for 10 years. The compensation rate (how much each kilowatt-hour of solar electricity is worth) is determined at the time a participating enrolls, and is locked for the 10-year duration of the program.

The program features a declining block structure, which means incentive levels were greatest when the program first opened and have been declining since. SMART participation is capped statewide at 3,200 MW in incentivized solar projects. Each utility supports a percentage of the program proportionate to the amount of electricity they distribute in the state.

SMART Massachusetts Solar Program logo

Massachusetts solar owners can participate in both net metering and SMART. However, SMART only applies to the value of solar electricity after net metering is applied. (We’ll show how this works below).

Related reading: Massachusetts Solar Rebates & Incentives in 2023

How to calculate your SMART program incentive

Unlike the SREC II program, which featured variable incentive levels based on market conditions, SMART participants lock in a flat rate for their solar production for 10 years. Here’s the basic formulate for SMART program incentive rates:

Base compensation rate + Adder(s) – Value of Energy = SMART incentive rate

Let’s explore element of this equation to better understand how to calculate your SMART incentive rate.

SMART base compensation rates

The base compensation rate depends on two things:

  • Utility service area
  • Which compensation block the program is in

Each utility provider has a set amount of solar capacity it can enroll into the Massachusetts SMART solar program, and this capacity is divided into blocks. As the program progress through each block, the incentive level declines by four percent.

The table below shows a snapshot of the block for each utility provider and the base compensation rates for May 2023:

Utility service area Current Block Base compensation rate ($/kWh)
Eversource (MA East) 9 of 16 $0.25038
Eversource (MA West) 9 of 16 $0.21044
National Grid (Mass Electric) 10 of 16 $0.22463
National Grid (Nantucket) 3 of 4 $0.25704
Unitil 5 of 8 $0.22619

*Blocks and compensation rates accurate as of May 2023. Data is subject to change as blocks progress and the value of energy changes.

So, let’s say you are in the Eversource (MA East) service area. Your base compensation rate would be $0.25038 per kWh if you enrolled in May 2023.

SMART adders

The Massachusetts SMART solar program includes “adders” for eligible system features that increase the per-kWh incentive amount.

According to the MA Department of Energy Resources: “(Adders) increase the amount of the incentive if features such as Energy Storage, Community Solar, or various location-based installations are proposed.”

Here are a few adders available to SMART program participants:

  • Up to $0.0487 for solar systems paired with battery storage
  • $0.03 per kWh for low-income property owners
  • $0.06 per kWh for systems built on farmland if the panels are angled and raised to allow crops or livestock to graze below

So, if your 6 kWh solar system also had a 10 kW battery, you could be eligible for a $0.487 adder that increases your incentive rate to $0.29908.

But remember, SMART compensation is based on “Base compensation rate + Adder(s) – Value of Energy” — which means we have to subtract the value of energy from the base compensation rate to find the true incentive rate.

Value of energy

Finally, we have to subtract the value of energy (aka electricity prices) to get the true SMART incentive rate. Given the rapid electricity rate increases in 2022, SMART program incentive rates took a major hit, as shown below.

Massachusetts SMART incentive levels May 2023

Eversource MA East 9 of 16 $0.25038 $0.24770 $0.00268
Eversource MA West 9 of 16 $0.21044 $0.23132 $0.00
National Grid (Nantucket) 3 of 4 $0.25704 $0.24323 $0.01381
National Grid (Massachusetts Electric) 10 of 16 $0.22463 $0.24323 $0.00
Unitil 5 of 8 $0.22619 $0.27753 $0.00

*Blocks and compensation rates accurate via as of May 2023. Data is subject to change as blocks progress and the value of energy changes.

For our 6 kW system in Eversource MA East territory, here’s how subtracting the value of energy affects the true incentive level:

True incentive rate ($/kWh) Monthly compensation Yearly compensation 10-year compensation
6 kW system w/out battery $0.00268 $1.74 $20.90 $209.04
6 kW system w/ 10 kWh battery $0.05138 $33.40 $400.76 $4,007.64

Figures shown above are for example purposes only.

It’s worth nothing that incentive levels can be — and are — zero if the value of energy is higher than the base incentive rate plus adders.

So what’s the takeaway?

  1. Electricity prices are high in Massachusetts, which means lower SMART incentives but greater savings potential for going solar
  2. SMART battery adders are valuable. Pairing battery with your solar system has many benefits, including a larger SMART incentive that can help reduce the cost of buying the battery.

Related reading: 5 Reasons to Go Solar in Massachusetts

How to Apply for the SMART Solar Incentive

Even if the incentive isn’t huge, there’s no harm in participating in SMART — just think of it as a nice cherry on top of the bigger benefits of going solar in Massachusetts.

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:

  1. Sign your solar agreement with your solar installer
  2. Your installer will apply on the PowerClerk system
  3. SMART Program representatives will provide a Preliminary Statement of Qualification for the incentive
  4. Your installer will install and obtain interconnection to the grid for your system
  5. Your installer will submit the incentive claim online for your project
  6. SMART Program representatives will provide a final statement of qualification
  7. 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 Massachusetts SMART Program Application Requirements Checklist. There is no official deadline for this program as the closure is based on when all available blocks have been filled.

Is home solar still worth it in Massachusetts with low SMART program incentive levels?

There’s no question that the MA SMART solar program incentive levels aren’t as attractive in 2023 as they were in the past. So, is going solar still worth it in Massachusetts?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Massachusetts has other solar incentives that can reduce the cost of going solar and the state boasts the fourth highest electricity prices in the nation. So, even without the SMART incentive, Bay Staters can substantially reduce their electricity costs and carbon footprint by installing a home solar system.

See how much you could save by comparing multiple quotes from local solar installers.


SMART program frequently asked questions

How does Massachusetts SMART program work?

Through the SMART program, Massachusetts’ three investor-owned utilites (Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil) compensate program participants for their solar production on a monthly basis for 10 years. A flat compensation rate is locked-in when the ratepayer signs up for SMART. Compensation rates depend on the solar owner’s utility service area, which block the incentive program is in, and electricity prices.

How is Massachusetts SMART program incentive paid?

According to Eversource, SMART incentive payments are distributed by mail or direct deposit on a monthly basis. Payments for systems under 25 kW (a vast majority of residential system) last for 10 years.

How do I calculate Massachusetts SMART program incentives?

The basic formula for calculating your SMART solar incentive level is: Base compensation rate + Adder(s) – Value of Energy = SMART incentive rate

SMART solar program incentives level are constantly changing based on the block and the value of energy. So, the easiest way to calculate your current incentive level is using the BTM Value of Energy Workbook found on this webpage. The workbook has an incentive calculator that you can plug your information into to find your compensation rate.


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