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Incentives/Policies for Renewables & Efficiency

Printable Version
Renewable Portfolio Standard   

Last DSIRE Review: 10/30/2014
Program Overview:
State: Massachusetts
Incentive Type: Renewables Portfolio Standard
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Hydroelectric, Geothermal Electric, Municipal Solid Waste, Anaerobic Digestion, Small Hydroelectric, Tidal Energy, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal, Renewable Fuels, Fuel Cells using Renewable Fuels
Applicable Sectors: Investor-Owned Utility, Retail Supplier
Standard:Class I (New Resources): 15% of by 2020 and an additional 1% each year thereafter
Class II (Existing Resources): 5.3% in 2014 (1.8% renewables and 3.5% waste-to-energy) and 5.5% in 2015 (2.0% renewables and 3.5% waste-to-energy)
Technology Minimum:In-state PV: Mandated Target of 1600 MW by 2020
Credit Trading:Yes (NEPOOL-GIS)
Web Site:
Authority 1:
Date Enacted:
Date Effective:
Expiration Date:
M.G.L. ch. 25A, ยง 11F
Not specified
Authority 2:
Date Enacted:
Date Effective:
225 CMR 14.00
12/20/2010 (subsequently amended)
Authority 3:
Date Effective:
225 CMR 15.00
Authority 4:
Date Enacted:
S.B. 2395 (Session Law Chapter 209)
Authority 5:
Date Enacted:
Order Adopting Timetable for Long-Term Contracts, (Docket 13-57)

NOTE: Applications stopped being accepted for facilities seeking qualification under the Solar Carve-Out program in April 2014. At this time, the Solar Carve-Out II program came into effect, for which applications are currently being accepted and will continue to be accepted until the 1,600 MW target is reached.

Class I Requirements (New Resources)

Under the Class I Renewable Portfolio Standard, all retail electricity suppliers must provide a minimum percentage of kilowatt-hours (kWh) sales to end-use customers in Massachusetts from eligible renewable energy resources installed after December 31, 1997, according to the following schedule:

·         1.0% of sales by 12/31/2003

·         1.5% of sales by 12/31/2004

·         2.0% of sales by 12/31/2005

·         2.5% of sales by 12/31/2006

·         3.0% of sales by 12/31/2007

·         3.5% of sales by 12/31/2008

·         4.0% of sales by 12/31/2009

·         5.0% of sales by 12/31/2010 *

·         6.0% of sales by 12/31/2011

·         7.0% of sales by 12/31/2012

·         8.0% of sales by 12/31/2013

·         9.0% of sales by 12/31/2014

·         10.0% of sales by 12/31/2015

·         11.0% of sales by 12/31/2016

·         12.0% of sales by 12/31/2017

·         13.0% of sales by 12/31/2018

·         14.0% of sales by 12/31/2019

·         15.0% of sales by 12/31/2020, and an additional 1% of sales each year thereafter, with no stated expiration date

Eligible Class I resources include: photovoltaics (PV); solar thermal-electric energy; wind energy; ocean thermal, wave or tidal energy; fuel cells utilizing renewable fuels; landfill gas; energy generated by certain new hydroelectric facilities, or certain incremental new energy from increased capacity or efficiency improvements at existing hydroelectric facilities; low-emission advanced biomass power conversion technologies using fuels such as wood, by-products or waste from agricultural crops, food or vegetative material, energy crops, algae, biogas, liquid biofuels;** marine or hydrokinetic energy; and geothermal energy.

Solar Carve-Out and Solar Carve-Out II

Starting in 2010, retail suppliers must provide a portion of the required renewable energy under the Class I Standard from qualified in-state, interconnected solar facilities. The original Solar Carve-Out requirement was 400 MW. Applications for facilities seeking qualification under the Solar Carve-Out stopped being accepted in April 2014 when the Solar Carve-Out II program came into effect. The Solar Carve-Out II requires 1,600 MW of solar by 2020.

Qualifying solar facilities (officially known as “Solar Carve-Out II Renewable Generation Units” in the regulations) must be 6 MW (direct current DC) or less, and must have become operational after December 31, 2012. Solar Carve-Out facilities cannot also qualify as Solar Carve-Out II facilities. The Solar Carve-Out Minimum Standard for compliance year 2014 is 0.9481%, and the Solar Carve-Out II Minimum Standard for compliance year 2014 is 0.0843%.***  The Solar Minimum Standard is calculated by dividing the annual solar compliance obligation in megawatt hours (MWh) by the total RPS load obligation from the previous two years. The solar compliance obligation in turn is based on the difference in the Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) generated during the past two years (see the DOER regulations for calculations and additional guidance). When 1,600 MW (DC) of qualifying solar facilities have been installed under both the Solar Carve-Out and Solar Carve-Out II programs, no additional solar facilities will be qualified for the Solar Carve-Out II, although they would be eligible to qualify as a RPS Class I Renewable facility and continue to satisfy the overall Class I Standard.

Class II Requirements (Existing Resources)

The Class II RPS requires all retail electricity suppliers to provide annually a percentage of kWh sales to end-use customers in Massachusetts from Class II renewables, starting in 2009. Eligible Class II renewables include systems operating before January 1, 1998, that generate electricity using PV; solar thermal-electric energy; wind energy; ocean thermal, wave or tidal energy; fuel cells utilizing renewable fuels; landfill gas; energy generated by certain existing hydroelectric facilities up to 7.5 megawatts (MW) in capacity; low-emission advanced biomass power conversion technologies using fuels such as wood, by-products or waste from agricultural crops, food or vegetative waste, energy crops, biogas, liquid biofuels; marine or hydrokinetic energy; or geothermal energy.  In August 2012, DOER temporarily stopped considering woody biomass as a Class II eligible resource until a rulemaking was completed. The rule was issued in June 2014 and extends the provisions from the Class I regulations relating to protecting forests and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to Class II woody biomass. The Minimum Standard was initially fixed at 3.6% from 2009-2012, but was adjusted downward to 1.5% in 2013 through a rule issued in June 2014. The Minimum Standard in 2014 is 1.8% and increases to 2.0% in 2015. Beyond 2015, it is calculated per a formula established in regulation.

In addition, there is a separate Class II Waste Energy Minimum Standard that requires all retail electricity suppliers to provide annually 3.5% of kWh sales to end-use customers in Massachusetts from waste energy**** starting in 2009. Eligible waste energy generation units must have and maintain a state approved recycling program, must comply with Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s air pollution and solid waste management regulations, and must allocate at least 50% of any revenue received from the sale of renewable energy certificates generated to its recycling programs.


Retail electricity suppliers demonstrate compliance by submitting, in an annual compliance filing to the DOER, documentation that Class I Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), Solar Carve-Out Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs), Solar Carve-Out II Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC IIs), Class II RECs, and Class II Waste Energy Certificates have been secured.***** These certificates represent the environmental attributes of one megawatt-hour (MWh) of generation from an eligible facility under each class category. In order to facilitate robust SREC I and SREC II markets that not only respond to market conditions but also provide price support, the DOER has created the Solar Credit Clearinghouse, which exists under each program.

Retail suppliers may pay the alternative compliance payment (ACP) if they are unable to procure enough renewable energy attributes, however the ACP rates are designed to be higher than the market price of RECs, SRECs, and SREC IIs. The DOER determined the initial ACP rate for each resource category. The ACPs for Class I, Class II, and Class II Waste Energy increase (or decrease) annually based on the Consumer Price Index of the previous year. The Solar Carve-Out and Solar Carve-Out II ACPs decrease annually per 10 year schedules established in regulation. The following table provides the base year ACP rate and current ACP rates:

Alternative Compliance Payment Rates


Class I

Class II

Class II Waste Energy

Solar Carve-Out

Solar Carve-Out II

Base Year: Initial Rate/MWh

2003: $50.00

2009: $25.00

2009: $10.00

2010: $600.00

2014: $375.00

2009 Rate/MWh






2010 Rate/MWh






2011 Rate/MWh






2012 Rate/MWh






2013 Rate/MWh






2014 Rate/MWh







Massachusetts RPS compliance reports are available on the DOER website.

Other State Renewable Energy Programs

The MA DOER and the MA Department of Environmental Protection announced a new joint initiative in November 2011, Clean Energy Results Program. This program has several specific renewable energy goals, including by 2020 achieve 50 MW of new solar PV on landfills and brownfields, and support installation of at least three anaerobic digestors and/or CHP projects by 2014 with private partners, among others.

The Green Communities Act (S.B.2768) also requires that electric distribution companies solicit long-term contracts (defined as 10-15 years) for renewable energy (electricity, RECs, or both) two times between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2012. Originally, the legislation required the renewable energy to be from within Massachusetts; however, in June 2010 the Department of Public Utilities issued emergency regulations striking the in-state requirement, thereby allowing out-of-state renewable energy resources to submit bids. Legislation passed in August 2012 amended the long-term contracting provisions, and an order released in March 2013 approved a timetable for two solicitations between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2016.

S.B. 2768 also established the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (APS), which requires meeting 5% of Massachusetts' electric load with "alternative energy" by 2020. For more information on the existing standard, see Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.


Massachusetts' 1997 electric-utility restructuring legislation created the framework for a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). In April 2002, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) adopted RPS regulations that required all retail electricity providers in the state to utilize new renewable-energy sources for at least 1% of their power supply in 2003, increasing to 4% by 2009. The RPS was significantly expanded by legislation enacted in July 2008 (Green Communities Act S.B. 2768); this legislation established two separate renewable standards -- a standard for “Class I” renewables, and a standard for “Class II” renewables -- as well as an alternative portfolio standard.


* The Solar Carve-Out Minimum Standard was 0.0680% (e) of sales by 12/31/2010. This standard is a portion of the Class I standard, not an addition to the standard.

** In August 2012, the DOER issued the final biomass regulation after more than two years of studying, public input and review. See the "Biomass Policy Regulatory Process" web site for additional, specific information.  

*** For 2010, the Solar Carve-Out compliance obligation was approximately 30 megawatts (MW) (DC), equivalent to a Solar Carve-Out Minimum Standard of 0.0679%. The Solar Carve-Out compliance obligation for compliance year 2011 was approximately 69 MW, equivalent to a Solar Carve-Out Minimum Standard of 0.1627%. The 2012 Solar Carve-Out compliance obligation was approximately 71 MW.  The 2013 Solar Carve-Out compliance obligation was approximately 118 MW.

**** Waste energy is defined as the electrical energy created from combustion of municipal solid waste.

*****The respective renewable energy certificates (RECs) are issued by the New England Power Pool Generation Information System (NEPOOL-GIS) and are technically called GIS Certificates.

  Mike Judge
Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER)
100 Cambridge St.
Suite 1020
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: (617) 626-7300
Fax: (617) 727-0030
Web Site:
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Disclaimer: The information presented on the DSIRE web site provides an unofficial overview of financial incentives and other policies. It does not constitute professional tax advice or other professional financial guidance, and it should not be used as the only source of information when making purchasing decisions, investment decisions or tax decisions, or when executing other binding agreements. Please refer to the individual contact provided below each summary to verify that a specific financial incentive or other policy applies to your project.

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