CABA Testifies at Last SMART Public Hearing
by Tim Cronin, Policy Fellow
On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) conducted the last of a series of public hearings regarding their proposed “SMART” solar incentive program. At the hearing, CABA expressed concern that SMART does not demonstrate a full commitment to equitable solar access and small business jobs.
SMART (Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target), is the new solar incentive program intended to replace the successful SREC and SREC II incentive programs. Both SREC programs have reached their MWh capacity limit, meaning all new solar projects are not eligible for incentives (until SMART is in place). Without incentives, solar projects will have trouble remaining competitive with cheap yet dirty fossil fuels.
The hearing room was filled with citizens, activists, business leaders, and journalists. Most of the testimony came from small solar companies concerned about the inadequate compensation levels set by the program. Green Justice Coalition member Clean Water Action also spoke, citing concerns about the social equity of aspects of the SMART program and its effects on low-income households.
Kate Galbo, CABA’s Programs Manager, cited three main concerns with the program:
- First, the compensation levels could be too low and decline too quickly to support a diverse range of projects.
- Second, the regulations do not do enough to promote shared community solar, and have the potential to make it harder for these community projects to succeed, by capping the program’s added incentives for these projects.
- Third, DOER program review process occurs too infrequently to ensure program transparency and consideration of external market factors and federal uncertainty.
These concerns potentially undermine equitable access to solar and endanger local solar jobs that could move out of state if issues remain unresolved.
State regulators can be expected to complete their final rules for SMART in late August. Solar projects can expect to start receiving SMART subsidies by April 2018 at the earliest (delayed from the original January 2018). Given the delayed timeline, it is especially critical now to eliminate the net metering caps so that projects across the state can move forward.
For a more extensive description of the program and CABA’s comments check out our recent blog post on the matter. Stay tuned for more updates regarding SMART and the future of solar policy in Massachusetts.
About the author: Tim is an economics and politics student at Stonehill College. This past year he had the opportunity to study at Oxford University, exploring global governance, human rights law, and int’l economics. As a senior, Tim will serve as student-body president and continue to fight for sustainable initiatives such as fossil fuel divestment and expanding the college’s solar farm. He has interned at the State House and serves on the board of his local civic association. Tim enjoys reading The Economist, listening to podcasts, and exploring state parks in his free time.