The Massachusetts solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) program is one of the most advantageous financial incentives for solar available at the state level. Massachusetts property owners who buy and install a solar panel system can earn hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars a year by selling the SRECs the system generates.
This article describes the mechanics of the MA SREC program, explores prices for MA SRECs, and looks to the future of the SREC program to help you make the best solar installation decision possible.
How the MA SREC program works
In July of 2018, Massachusetts passed an updated renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires its utilities to produce 40 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030. The original RPS required that 1,600 MW of solar by 2020 through a “solar carve-out,” so called because it carves out a piece of the overall renewable target exclusively for solar.
Under this program, SRECs are used to track the amount of electricity generated by solar projects. For the first ten years of a solar energy system’s lifespan, one SREC is generated for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity a solar energy system produces. As an example, the average MA homeowner buying a 5-kilowatt system should expect to generate approximately 6 MWh of solar electricity per year.
Utilities purchase SRECs to comply with the solar component of the RPS. The owners of solar panel systems – from individual homeowners to large-scale solar developers – can sell their SRECs to utilities through the state’s SREC market.
Factors that determine SREC prices
In Massachusetts, an SREC’s price is determined by five primary factors: the SREC program design, supply, demand, the Solar Alternative Compliance Payment (SACP), and the Solar Credit Clearinghouse Auction (SCCA).
SREC I vs. SREC II
In Massachusetts, there are two separate SREC programs: SREC I and SREC II. Homeowners who installed solar before 2014 were eligible for the SREC I program, which is the original SREC program in the state. That program reached its cap prior to 2014, leading the state to create a successor program: SREC II. Both SREC programs have advantageous pricing, though the value of SRECs tends to be higher in the SREC I program than in SREC II.
Supply and demand
Buying and selling SRECs is a lot like playing the stock market. In general, the price of an SREC depends upon the supply and demand in the market at the time. An oversupply of SRECs indicates lower prices, while an undersupply can lead to greater prices for your SRECs. In Massachusetts, however, SREC pricing is much less sensitive to supply and demand than in other SREC markets as a result of the SACP and SCCA.
SACP – Solar Alternative Compliance Payment
The SACP represents the price utility companies are required to pay if they don’t meet their specific solar goals as mandated by the state. SACP prices are set by the state to help drive the cost at which an SREC sells. As such, the SACP is effectively a cap on SREC prices. Utilities do not have an incentive to buy SRECs at a higher price than the SACP: if SREC market prices are higher than the SACP, utilities will just pay the SACP penalty price instead.
Below are the SACP prices for the next eight years for the SREC I and SREC II programs.
SACP prices in Massachusetts
|Year||SREC I SACP ($)||SREC II SACP ($)|
SCCA – Solar Credit Clearinghouse Auction
Massachusetts’ SREC programs also include a “last-chance” auction, known as the SCCA. When it comes to selling SRECs, most solar shoppers work with a third-party aggregator or broker to manage the sale of their SRECs. These brokers provide the option to have as much, or as little, control over your SRECs as you’d like. For example, you can set a minimum price you’d like your SRECs to be sold at so that the broker waits to sell until the market hits that price point. Alternatively, you can instruct your broker to sell an SREC as soon as it is generated so that you get the money as soon as possible, whatever the market price is at the time. If you choose not to sell your SRECs on the spot market, your broker will have the option to sell them at the SCCA.
The annual auction is an opportunity for aggregators and brokers to sell SRECs at a set, guaranteed price when there’s an oversupply in the market. Similar to the SACP, the auction price is determined by the state. However, where the SACP is an effective cap on SREC prices, the SCCA represents a floor price. There is no guarantee that your SRECs will sell at this auction, but if they don’t sell, they are re-minted and you can sell them on the open market within the following three years.
Below are the SCCA prices for the next eight years for the SREC I and SREC II program. Importantly, if an SREC sells at the final auction, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) obtains 5 percent as a fee.
SCCA prices in Massachusetts
|Year||SREC I SCCA ($)||SREC II SCCA ($)|
MA SREC prices
According to SRECtrade, one of the biggest SREC aggregators in the country, MA SREC II prices ranged from $265 to over $300 between September 2017 and September 2018. In the SREC I program, the payout was slightly higher, with observed prices from $315 to $390.
Importantly, only individuals who own (rather than lease) their solar energy system are eligible to sell SRECs into the MA SREC market.
Status of the Massachusetts SREC program
The SREC II program reached its cap in 2017. As a result, the state created a new solar incentive program known as the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART). The state is still in the process of finalizing the program, which is expected to launch in late 2018. Property owners are not eligible for both incentives. However, if you are accepted into the SREC II program prior to the start of SMART, you will be grandfathered into the program for the full 10 years.
How the Massachusetts SREC program changes impact you
Massachusetts is one of the best states in the U.S. for solar, thanks in no small part to the SREC program. If you are considering installing solar and want to get the most out of the MA SREC program, you should install solar panels as soon as possible. Fortunately, if you invest in solar after the SREC ends, you will still earn thousands in additional savings under the SMART program.
You can compare competing quotes from Massachusetts solar installers by joining the EnergySage Solar Marketplace. Thanks to the competitive SREC market, the average MA solar shopper on EnergySage will break even on their solar panel system in less than five years – one of the shortest payback periods in the United States.