Massachusetts has become one of the nation’s biggest solar power success stories boasting the nation’s second largest solar workforce, thanks in part to its solar incentive programs. However, the earlier generations of those incentives have had some issues that have resulted in stops and starts for the solar industry. Now the state is close to launching the new Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, which solar advocates support but still have some reservations about.
On Monday (June 5) the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) announced the new proposed SMART regulations. The new program was welcomed by solar advocates, but they want some more improvements to the program to ensure solar continues to grow in the state.
“Thanks to Massachusetts’ leadership and initiatives that make solar more accessible and affordable, Massachusetts has set itself apart as a national leader that’s building its clean, equitable energy economy,” said Sean Garren, northeast regional director at Vote Solar. “The Commonwealth affirmed its commitment to its clean energy future with today’s SMART program announcement, but more work is needed to improve the program and work with the legislature to expand net metering to ensure that we continue to harness the economic and environmental benefits of solar.”
Net-metering in Massachusetts is currently closed to new projects in most of Massachusetts as utilities’ capacity levels have across the most of the state. However, the state legislature has proposed bills that would expand the net metering program. At the same time Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has signaled that he’s in favor of addressing climate change and committed the state to the United States Climate Alliance and is likely to support such reforms.
“We thank Governor Baker and his team for continuing to prioritize the expansion of solar energy,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “The SMART program will help support another 1,600 megawatts of solar in the commonwealth and maintain its position as a leading state.” Gallagher cautioned that the until SMART is enacted in 2018, there needs to be a program to help bridge the gap, and also singled out expanding the net-metering program.
Another issue is community solar, according to Coalition for Community Solar Access Executive Director Jeff Cramer. “Community solar projects are currently saving consumers money while providing clean, local power across the Commonwealth,” Cramer said. "We are concerned that the proposed limits on community solar will hamper clean energy access. Every ratepayer in the Commonwealth deserves the opportunity to receive the benefits of solar energy on their electric bill through participation in community solar.”
The SMART program is now going through a public comment period, during which advocates, solar installers and the public can make comments. After the period DOER will consider final changes.Tweet