The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has finished the required Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program 400-MW review and emergency rulemaking and published its final regulations. Several revisions and adjustments have been made to the final regulations, including expanding the availability of the COVID-19 extension to new applications received through December 31, 2020.
Revisions have been made to previously published land-use exceptions. Projects that meet the below criteria will now be assessed under the former land-use regulations:
- Have applied for the Interconnection Service Agreement (ISA) 135 business days prior to April 15, 2020, or have obtained a fully executed ISA by October 15, 2020; and
- Have obtained a sufficient interest in real estate or other contractual rights to construct the Solar Tariff Generation Unit at the location specified in the ISA as of April 15, 2020.
Additionally, the DOER distinguished eligible land use between projects qualifying for capacity as part of the original 1,600 MW vs. projects qualifying under the new 1,600 MW. Projects qualifying under the original 1,600 MW will be eligible for the SMART Program even if located on land designated as Critical Natural Landscape, while projects qualifying under the new 1,600 MW will be ineligible if the project is sited in a Priority Habitat, Core Habitat or Critical Natural Landscape.
The final regulations also allow for single-axis trackers to be eligible for the “tracker adder,” and behind-the-meter systems to receive “alternative on-bill credits.”
The DOER also made modifications to the Statement of Qualification Reservation Period Guideline. In addition to continuing the COVID-19 extension for new applications, the DOER has done the following:
- Eliminated the requirement that projects obtaining an indefinite extension, pending the authorization to interconnect, must submit a claim within 10 business days of receiving the authorization to interconnect;
- Granted eligible Public Entity Off-taker Adder Solar Tariff Generation Units an initial reservation period of 18 months;
- Clarified that projects qualified as Community Shared Solar that do not submit a claim with the CSS Adder will have their base compensation rate decreased to the value in the lowest available capacity block, but will not be at risk of losing their Statement of Qualification outright; and
- Established a process by which DOER will queue project applications if there is a rush of applications submitted following the issuance of ISAs by a distribution company upon the completion of an ASO study.
Several other guidelines related to the SMART Program are still being revised, and the DOER is expected to release these updates in the coming weeks. Publication of the regulations is just the beginning phase for resuming the SMART Program. Changes to the regulations that affect the tariff will now need to be implemented into each electric distribution company’s tariffs and undergo administrative review of the Department of Public Utilities.
Tanya M. Larrabee is an attorney at the Boston law firm Sherin and Lodgen. She represents renewable energy clients in the acquisition, development and financing of solar, wind and energy storage projects, including advising on state incentive programs. She can be contacted via email at email@example.com.