Category Archives: Solar

SMART Moves to a New Forum: Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to Consider a SMART Tariff

Stakeholders have been following the development of “SMART” as a successor to the SREC program in Massachusetts for more than a year.  (See our previous posts on the development process here, here, and here.)  As it stands, SMART reflects a determined effort by the Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) to craft a program that balances multiple interests and sets a sustainable path for solar development in Massachusetts. … More

Ballot Initiative Petitions Include Four Clean Energy Proposals

Initiative petition proponents filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office earlier this week 28 proposed initiative petitions that, if certified by the AG and endorsed by the requisite number of registered voters, could appear on the November 2018 ballot.  (See this post for more details on the ballot initiative process.)  Interested parties have until Friday, August 11 to (1) submit memoranda setting forth why the AG should or should not certify the measure,… More

Leaked DOE Grid Report Not What Trump Administration Wants to Hear – So Will They Change It?

In April, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) to perform a 60-day review and produce a report regarding the reliability of the energy grid and potential concerns regarding early retirement of baseload generators. Perry’s request explicitly solicited information concerning “[t]he extent to which continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.” Perry has argued that government subsidies for intermittent generators such as solar and wind and onerous environmental regulations lead to premature retirements of coal and nuclear power plants,… More

DOER Releases Emergency Regulations for Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (“SMART”)

On June 5, 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) filed much anticipated emergency regulations (225 CMR 20.00) to govern, at least the DOER’s part of its proposed Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (“SMART”) program. The regulations build on a proposal released January 31, 2017 (discussed previously, here) and represent the Baker administration’s first formal step in following through on the legislature’s 2016 mandate to DOER in An Act Relative to Solar Energy commanding that it develop a new statewide solar incentive program.… More

Tesla Petitions DPU for Solar + Storage Facility’s Right to Net Metering Credits

For the purposes of qualifying for net metering credits, section 138 of M.G.L. c. 164 defines a “Solar Net Metering Facility” as “a facility for the production of electrical energy that uses sunlight to generate electricity and is interconnected to a Distribution Company.”  The statute and accompanying regulations are silent regarding the co-location of energy storage equipment with such a qualifying Solar Net Metering Facility.

National Grid has interpreted this silence to be a total prohibition on solar + storage for net metering facilities.… More

DOER Finalizes SREC Factors for Projects that Receive “Good Cause” Extensions

Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) finalized the details of the Solar Carve-out II extension, which seeks to facilitate the transition between that program and DOER’s proposed Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program. The extension program helps bridge the gap between the Solar Carve-out II incentive program, which went into effect in April 2014 and was designed to support the market until 1,600 MW of PV capacity had been installed,… More

DOER Presents Final Program Design for Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (“SMART”) Anticipated for January 2018 and Extension of SREC II Program for Approximately One Year

On January 31, 2017, DOER Commissioner Judith Judson and Mike Judge, Director of the Renewable and Alternative Energy Division at DOER, presented the agency’s final proposal for design of its successor to the successful Solar Carve-out and Solar Carve-out II programs in a 3-hour public meeting.

It’s called SMART and lest you doubt that it is, DOER included the following equation in its presentation to prove it:

(Helpfully,… More

Massachusetts DOER to Propose Successor to SREC II Program

In a letter circulated on January 24, 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) announced it will present a final proposed design of a new solar incentive program at a meeting on January 31, 2017.

DOER has worked with stakeholders over the last several months to develop a successor program to the Solar Carve Out II Program (SREC II). Final details are not yet available,… More

MA Appellate Tax Board Again Finds Virtually Net Metered Solar Facility Exempted from Property Taxation

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Appellate Tax Board (the “Board”) has again ruled that a ‘virtual’ net-metered solar PV project is exempted from property taxation under clause “forty-fifth” of Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 59, Section 5. This time, the board promulgated its Findings of Fact and Report in KTT, LLC v. Board of Assessors of The Town of Swansea.

Beyond Forrestall

The Findings represent yet another major change in the application of the Commonwealth’s property tax exemption for off-site,… More

DOER’s Solar Incentive Straw Proposal: Optimism, Anxiety, Uncertainty.

beautiful sunrise and cloudy sky

On September 23, DOER presented a straw proposal for the next phase of Massachusetts solar incentives. DOER’s ambitious proposal for a tariff-based program reflects a thoughtful development process and a laudable goal of crafting a program that is more efficient at promoting sustained solar deployment. There is plenty to like. But, DOER has bitten off quite a mouthful by proposing a structure that departs so dramatically from the SREC approach.  … More

Massachusetts Gears Up for Energy Storage Grant Program

The report on energy storage released by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) on September 16 put forward a bevy of policy proposals that have reinvigorated discussions of energy storage in the Commonwealth.  A key policy initiative that seems certain to be implemented is the Advancing Commonwealth Energy storage (ACES) Program a $10 million, competitive grant program for energy storage projects to be administered by MassCEC and DOER. … More

DOER and MassCEC Release Report on Energy Storage

battery

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (“MassCEC”) released their long-awaited report on energy storage, “State of Charge” (the “Storage Study”) on Friday.  The Storage Study is a central component of the Commonwealth’s “Energy Storage Initiative” and is likely to serve as the basis for future policy initiatives.  It recommends a suite of policies designed to promote the development of 600 MW of advanced energy storage (i.e.… More

MA DPU Sets September 26, 2016 as Net Metering “Notification Date” Setting the Stage for Transition to a Market Net Metering Credit

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (the “Department“) today issued its Order Announcing Notification Date in its proceeding under 16-64, setting September 26, 2016 at 2PM as the “Notification Date” related to the transition to market net metering credits for private net metering projects.

The Order, 16-64-D, is available here: 16-64-D Order Announcing Notification Date 7 29 16.

The Department determined in its order that “aligning the timing for transition to the new regime of net metering credits with DOER’s SREC II program is the best option to result in a smooth transition to a stable and equitable solar net metering market.” With this Order,… More

Massachusetts DPU Issues Final Order on Net Metering Emergency Regulations

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has issued its final Order (16-64-C) in its Docket 16-64 and has released its draft of amended net metering regulations under 220 CMR 18.00 et seq.

A copy of the Order and the final regulations is available at this link: 16-64-C Order Adopting Final Regs 7.15.16 With Appendices

According to the Order, the DPU intends to make the amended regulations go effective on July 29,… More

Emergency Extension Promulgated; Factors Reduced

On April 8, 2016 the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) filed emergency changes to 225 CMR 14.00 with the Secretary of the Commonwealth in an effort to bridge the gap between the expiration of the current solar incentive program and the expected publication of a new solar incentive program. Subsequent to a public hearing and comment period, DOER made several responsive modifications, and finalized the regulations which the Secretary of the Commonwealth officially promulgated as of July 1,… More

Legislature and Administration Favor Stable and Equitable Transition to Market Net Metering Credit

Solar PanelsThe Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy and the Baker Administration’s Department of Energy Resources have each delivered comments to the Department of Public Utilities in its Docket 16-64 implementing the Commonwealth’s transition to a “market net metering credit” rate for private net metering projects.

The DOER’s letter is available here and the Committee’s letter is available here.… More

Another Solar Emergency!? Will the Commonwealth’s Transition to a “Market Net Metering Credit” for Private Solar Projects be “Stable and Equitable” After All?

Solar PanelsThe Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ (“DPU”) recent emergency order (the “Order”) issued May 11 in its Docket 16-64 made some immediate changes to the Commonwealth’s net metering law enacted by the Act Relative to Solar Energy (the “Act), which, according to its own preamble, was itself was an “emergency law, necessary for the public convenience” adopted, in part,… More

Coming Soon To A Roof Near You: Solar Panels (At Least If You Live in SF)

This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance that will require that the developers of all new buildings of 10 floors or less that apply for building permits after January 1, 2017 install solar PV or solar thermal systems.  I’m not an expert in the California Code of Regulations, so I’m not familiar with all of the potential exemptions, but the only one stated in the new ordinance is for buildings (residential or non-residential) with a “solar zone” of less than 150 contiguous square feet.… More

Massachusetts Passes Stopgap Net Metering Legislation

On April 11, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law compromise legislation modestly raising the cap on the state’s net metering program. Net metering allows customers to generate solar power to offset electricity costs and provide surplus power to the grid.

The program was previously limited to 4 percent of peak electricity demand for private projects and 5 percent for public projects. These limits were reached in National Grid’s service territory last March,… More

Maryland Clears Path for Community Solar

Reflecting the nation’s growing interest in community solar, on May 15, 2015, Maryland passed a law directing the state’s Public Services Commission (PSC) to establish a three-year pilot program for community solar projects, which provide the means for electricity customers to benefit from off-site or group-owned solar panels through “virtual” net metering.

The Maryland law imposes a two-MW limit on the capacity of individual community solar systems and requires that they be located in the same electric service territory as its subscribers,… More

Solar and Wind Federal Tax Credits Extended for Five Years

Solar and wind tax credits aren’t going to ride off into the sunset just yet.

On December 18, 2015, Congress extended the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Production Tax Credit (PTC) for five years.

The Section 48 ITC for commercial installations had been set to decrease from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016 and the Section 25D individual tax credit would have disappeared altogether.… More

IRS Issues Favorable PLR Allowing an Individual Panel Owner in an Offsite, Net-Metered Community-Shared Solar Project to Claim the Section 25D Tax Credit

The Internal Revenue Service has issued a private letter ruling to an individual owner of solar panels installed in an offsite net-metered community-shared solar project confirming the individual’s eligibility for the income tax credit under Section 25D of the Internal Revenue Code. A redacted copy of the PLR 201536017 is available from the IRS’s website here. This PLR provides significant insight into the IRS view on the application of Section 25D to community-shared solar projects.… More

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Releases Solar Net Metering Bill

One week after the Massachusetts legislature departed for its summer recess, Governor Charlie Baker today released net metering legislation to rival the Massachusetts Senate’s recent bill.

Where the Senate bill would have simply raised the net metering cap to 1600 MWs and largely retained the current net metering credit calculations, the Governor’s bill would increase the metering cap but would substantially reduce the calculation of net metering credits.… More

Massachusetts DPU Extends Time for Electric Distribution Companies to File Grid Modernization Plans

Readers expecting the Massachusetts electric distribution companies to file their Grid Modernization Plans yesterday will have to wait another two weeks.  On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities granted a last minute extension, making the GMP filings due on August 19th.  In their request for the extension, the electric distribution companies noted that the “requirement to develop comprehensive, forward-looking GMPs was the first of its kind” and that the GMPs “encompass sophisticated and complex technological investment portfolios,… More

IRS States (Again) That Wind PTC Safe Harbor Does Not Apply to Solar ITC Transactions

In a memorandum released on June 12th, the IRS confirms that the safe harbor for Section 45 wind energy production tax credit (PTC) transactions set forth in Revenue Procedure 2007-65 does not apply to partners or partnerships with Section 48 energy credits, such as partnership flip transactions involving the solar investment tax credit (ITC).

This IRS memorandum, Chief Counsel Advice (CCA) 201524024, has generated a flurry of interest in the solar community. … More

Mississippi Moves Forward with Net Metering Based on Independent Economic Study

Recently, the Mississippi iStock_000007078510_MediumPublic Service Commission (PSC) unanimously voted to move forward in developing a net metering policy. This decision comes (somewhat) on the heels of an independent study commissioned by the state’s PSC concluding that distributed solar would provide levelized net benefits to the state over a period of twenty-five years. Adding to a growing body of work finding untapped value in distributed solar,… More

Independent Study Commissioned by Maine PUC Values Distributed Solar at $0.337 per kWh

solarThe latest volley in the ongoing debate over the economic value of solar policies comes from Maine, where the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) released an independent study finding that the net value of distributed solar is $0.337 per kWh when levelized over the course of twenty-five years. That is significantly more than the state currently offers as offset credit to customers engaged in photovoltaic net metering.… More

Solar Jobs Overtake Coal Mining Employment as Renewable Energy Use Grows

Solar-related employment in the United States now accounts for more jobs than coal mining.  According to the 2015 Economic Report of the President, about 174,000 American jobs are attributable to the solar energy industry.  The report also includes data for coal-related employment, which has dropped from a high of almost 400,000 jobs in the early 1950s, to fewer than 100,000 jobs today.

Solar employment

Employment in the solar industry grew over 85% between 2010 and 2014,… More

MassDEP Releases New Proposed Clean Energy Standards as Baker Administration Takes Office

The diStock_000037220428_smallay before Governor Charlie Baker was sworn into office as the state’s 72nd chief executive, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection released its proposed Clean Energy Standard (CES) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

The CES would come into effect in 2020 and require a minimum percentage of electricity sold to retail customers in Massachusetts to come from “clean generation,” starting with a 45% requirement in 2020 and increasing to 49% by 2024.… More

Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board Finds MA Department of Revenue’s Denial of Property Tax Exemption for Virtually Net Metered Solar Facility “Incorrect,” Based on an “Illusory Distinction” and “Entitled to No Deference”

On December 4, 2014, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Appellate Tax Board (the “Board”) promulgated its Findings of Fact and Report in Forrestall Enterprises, Inc. v. Board of Assessors of The Town of Westborough.

Major Change

The Findings represent a major change in the application of the Commonwealth’s property tax exemption for off-site, net-metered and virtual-net-metered wind and solar systems. For some time now, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (“DOR”) has taken the position that certain net metered solar and wind systems,… More

Will Time Varying Rates Shift Demand and Reduce Costs in Massachusetts?  We Will Find Out (Eventually)

digtalclock_imageIn June, I wrote about the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ proposal to shift “Basic Service”—the default electricity service provided by electric distribution companies and used by most residential customers—from a flat rate structure to a time varying rate.  On November 5th, the DPU adopted that proposal without modification.

That means that, in the future, the default service for retail customers in Massachusetts will have a time-of-use pricing structure. … More

The Massachusetts DPU Sets Requirements for Utility Grid Modernization Plans, Starting a Nine Month Period for Utilities to Identify Investments

stopwatch_ZG_blog postMassachusetts has taken the next step towards requiring substantial investments to increase the capabilities of its electrical system and create opportunities for new technologies and innovations.  On November 5th, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued an Order, D.P.U. 12-76-C, along with itemized filing requirements and a summary template, laying out what Massachusetts utilities must file in their “Grid Modernization Plans” (“GMPs”)—the ten-year proposals for investments promoting “grid modernization objectives” (such as reducing the effects of outages,… More

The Massachusetts DPU Issues Regulations to Increase Net Metering Caps, but What Does the Future Hold?

On November 4th, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued emergency regulations to implement the increase in net metering caps that was included in the thermal energy bill that passed at the end of the legislative session (An Act Relative to Credit for Thermal Energy Generated with Renewable Fuels, Chapter 251 of the Acts of 2014).  The action here was in the legislation, which we wrote about in August. … More

On Whitening Teeth and Installing Solar Panels

perfect teeth smileWhat do teeth-whitening and solar PV installation have in common?  Both can be subject to the murky authority of state professional boards made up of members with potential conflicts of interest.  A case argued before the Supreme Court on October 14th, North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, colorfully presents the potential conflicts that arise when professionals on such boards attempt to regulate at the margins of their profession. … More

The Hub is Still a Hub for Cleantech: Reports Highlight Boston and Massachusetts Clean Energy Achievement

This week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick lauded the progress of the Cleantech sector in Massachusetts, and the over 88,000 jobs the Commonwealth’s clean energy businesses provide. In fact, employment in a clean energy field now represents 2.4% of all employees in Massachusetts. The 2014 Clean Energy Industry Report highlights the state’s “thriving local market for clean energy and a strongly supportive business environment.”

The sector has grown 47% since 2010.  … More

Massachusetts Legislature Passes Bill Increasing Net Metering Caps, Creating Net Metering Task Force and Creating REC For Renewable Thermal, Solar Thermal, Geothermal Ground- and Air-Source Heat Pumps and More

In the final hours of its legislative session, the Massachusetts legislature passed legislation to create a thermal energy REC program in the Commonwealth, lift the caps on the Commonwealth’s existing net metering regime and appoint a 17-member “Net Metering Task Force” to study the “future of net metering.”

Net Metering Caps

Rather than enacting an anticipated comprehensive overhaul of solar regulations and incentives in the Commonwealth (which would have completely lifted net metering caps and blended the state’s net metering compensation method with its solar SREC program),… More

DOE Announces $4 Billion Loan Guarantee Program for Renewable and Energy Efficiency Projects

This month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new solicitation for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, to provide loan guarantees of up to $4 billion.  The solicitation identifies five technology areas of focus: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy projects;  existing facility enhancements; and efficiency improvement projects. The loan guarantee program is intended to help project developers secure commercial financing by mitigating some of the risks associated with emerging technology projects.… More

IRS Isues Notice Clarifying Sequester’s Effect on Cash Grant, ITC and PTC

As explained in a previous post, the sequester beginning on March 1, 2013 required Section 1603 Payments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009 face cuts of 7.2 or 8.7 percent dependent upon the effective date of the Award Letter. While guidance the Internal Revenue Service recently released clarifies how to calculate tax treatment of Section 1603 Payments affected by the recent sequester, it fails to provide any certainty beyond September 30,… More

Massachusetts DPU Issues a Strong Order on Grid Modernization

You don’t have to read far in the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ recent Order on Grid Modernization, D.P.U. 12-76-B , to get a sense of what a significant step the DPU believes it is taking:

With this Order, the Department launches a new energy future for Massachusetts. The modern electric system that we envision will be cleaner, more efficient and reliable, and will empower customers to manage and reduce their energy costs.… More

SREC II Carves Out More Room for Community Solar

The Massachusetts DOER has released its revised regulations amending the State’s RPS to implement the next phase of support for solar in the Commonwealth. Redlined pages are available here.

From here the regulations will be reviewed at most for 30 days by the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy which may provide comments to DOER. After review of any such comments by DOER,… More

Massachusetts Issues Draft SREC II Regulations: Headed Toward 1.6GW of Solar By 2020?

Originally posted on January 14, 2014 in Law & the Environment

Last year, Governor Patrick announced a goal of 1.6GW of solar electricity in Massachusetts by 2020; a goal that requires more than 1.2GW of new solar in the next six years.  The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has now issued draft regulations for its SREC II program.  The regulations are too complicated to summarize in a blog post,… More

IRS Opens the Door to Expanded Use of Residential Section 25D Credit in Offsite Solar and Other Renewables Projects

The IRS has released new guidance (Notice 2013-70) (the “Guidance”) in the form of a Q-and-A interpreting tax credits available to individual taxpayers under IRC Section 25D (Residential Energy Efficient Property) (the “25D Credit”) and IRC Section 25C (Nonbusiness Energy Property). Particularly noteworthy are the Questions and Answers interpreting the eligibility of off-site installations and net-metering arrangements on individual taxpayers’ eligibility to take the 25D Credit,… More

Crowdfunding of Solar, Other Renewables One Step Closer

Earlier this week the SEC today proposed rules for Crowdfunding, which was initially enacted under the JOBS Act (Jumpstart our Business Startups). After the enactment of the JOBS Act in April, 2012 and given the early, but limited success of models like SolarMosaic, the growth in community-focused solar ownership business models, and the charitable sites that solicit gifts for renewable and energy efficiency projects, there’s been a lot of interest in crowdfunding for solar and other renewables.… More

DOER Expects SREC II Regs by January 2014. What kind of market will we get from SREC II?

At the most recent of what seems to have become near-monthly public meetings convened by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) at the State House concerning all things SREC-related, DOER informed market participants that it intends to put its “SREC II” or “Post-400MW” regulations into place by the new year, 2014. That timeline is somewhat accelerated and firmed up compared to DOER’s previous estimates of its ability to implement the Governor’s expanded goal of attaining 1.6 GW of installed solar in the Commonwealth by 2020.… More

1.21 More Gigawatts! Great Scott!

Doc Brown would be impressed.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has announced an ambitious goal of installing 1.6GW of solar in the Commonwealth by 2020. Gov. Patrick made the announcement after celebrating the installation of 250MW of solar generation – the laudable achievement four years early of his administration’s original goal set back in 2008, which was to have been achieved by 2017.

The administration calculates that 1.6GW of solar would generate enough power to serve nearly all residences in Boston. … More

Technically, We Could Green The Grid and Keep The Lights On; Do We Have The Policies to Get Us There?

One concern with adding large amounts of renewable generation to the electric grid is that the variability of renewable resources such as solar and wind might render the electric grid unreliable.  According to a recent report from Synapse Energy Economics, that concern is misplaced and we already have the technological capacity to replace 100% of U.S. coal generation and 25% of U.S. nuclear generation with renewables by 2050 while maintaining grid reliability.… More

Are Distributed Generation and Demand Side Management Trends Poised to Cause a Radical Transformation in the Electric Utility Industry?

The Utilities themselves may be starting to take the threat seriously.  A recent report prepared for the Edison Electric Institute by Peter Kind of Energy Infrastructure Advocates argues that technological and economic changes – led by falling costs of distributed generation (think primarily PV, but also storage, EVs and other distributed technologies) and increasing interest in demand side management technologies (think efficiency) –  are “game changers” that could lead to changes in the electric utility industry comparable to those experienced by the telecommunications industry beginning in the late 1970s.… More