September 28 (Renewables Now) - The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) on Wednesday issued an order that will allow the launch of the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) programme.
The long-term solar incentive programme is designed to support 1,600 MW of new solar generating capacity in the state. It will back all new solar projects of below 5 MW through an incentive paid directly by the utility company to the solar generation owner.
The DPU order that approves compensation for solar project owners under the programme is the final step in its implementation. The SMART programme was issued by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) in August 2017.
In a joint statement, solar advocacy groups welcomed the order, although they cautioned they are still looking into the details. Sean Garren, senior director, Northeast for Vote Solar, said that solar projects have been stalled across Massachusetts for more than a year now awaiting the launch of the SMART programme.
"After many delays, this order from the DPU will help solar energy regain momentum across the Commonwealth," said Mark Sylvia, president of the Solar Energy Business Association of New England. "As always, details matter; we are still reviewing the specifics, but are encouraged by this critical step in putting the Massachusetts solar industry back on track through the SMART program," Sylvia added.
The SMART programme is expected to save ratepayers an estimated USD 4.7 billion (EUR 4 bn) over current programmes. The capacity it will support will enable the state to meet about 10% of its annual electricity demand by solar resources, the DPU said. Massachusetts currently has over 2,200 MW of installed solar.
Under the programme, compensation is differentiated in terms of size and type of solar installations. The programme is also the first in the US to provide incentives to solar projects that are paired with storage.
"The SMART program is designed to encourage appropriate siting of solar projects by incentivizing projects on rooftops, parking lots, and landfills," noted Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton.
The DPU said that under the order it rejected the distribution companies' proposal for a cap on bill credits that individual customers could receive under community solar projects. The DPU also turned down the distribution companies' proposal to allow costs to be recovered through a fixed charge, instead requiring all ratepayers to contribute to costs through a volumetric charge.
(USD 1 = EUR 0.861)