The solar PV market in Massachusetts is experiencing uncertainty, yet again, as it anxiously awaits the state Department of Energy Resources’ (DOER) proposal for the next solar incentive program. Following the scheduled expiration of the SREC-II program, participants in the solar industry are forced to be patient while the DOER figures out what the next incentive plan will be. Since the DOER is not quite ready to unveil its long-term solar incentive plan for the years ahead, the department has instead introduced new changes by filing an Emergency Regulation to extend the current SREC-II program deadline.
SREC-II Emergency Regulation
The recent changes in the regulation extend the construction deadline to May 8, 2017 for solar projects able to demonstrate by January 8, 2017 that 50% of their construction costs have been disbursed.
Projects granted extensions remain eligible for SREC-II, but will be subject to lower SREC factors, and therefore values. The DOER continues to grapple with trying to preserve the SREC-II program for current projects, while at the same time creating a sense of urgency for further development. The DOER released a draft of the Emergency Regulation on August 15, and accepted public comments until August 22 at 5pm.
Market Net Metering
Many projects in Massachusetts rely upon virtual net metering, but a proposed new incentive program could deliver meaningful changes in net metering credit value, which will significantly impact the growth of solar going forward.
In April, Governor Baker signed Senate Bill S.1979 into law, calling for changes in the net metering values. For example, the bill modifies the value of market net metering credits reducing the credit value by 40% and significantly impacting the economic benefit to the recipient of these credits. Only under certain circumstances can systems qualify under the old rate, provided:
- They submit an Application for a Cap Allocation (ACA) before September 26 at 2pm.
- They obtain cap allocation by January 8, 2017.
The changes to both the SREC-II program and net metering will have a significant impact on the growth of the solar industry in Massachusetts. Although the DOER presented solar companies with an immediate source of relief through the Emergency Regulation, the pressing question remains as to when a long-term solution to the solar incentives program will be implemented – a question that the solar industry’s future and thousands of solar jobs hinges upon. The continual modifications to the incentives programs and frequent, temporary increase of net metering caps ultimately impact investment and job growth – both of which are dependent upon predictability and clarity of solar policies.
According to research done by Greentech Media, Massachusetts is projected to install more than 400 MW between 2016 and 2017 – much more than the 340 MW installed in 2015. However, this optimistic projection is dependent upon the solar industry, the utilities, and our legislators working together to present a successor to the SREC program that fairly represents the value of solar to the economy of the Commonwealth.