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Baker administration proposes new solar incentive program

Governor Charlie Baker’s administration on Tuesday unveiled a new incentive program aimed at continuing the state’s solar industry success. But this solar program, state officials say, will probably only cost about half as much as the last one.

Baker’s energy and environmental team has been working for months on a replacement for a solar program that reached its limit nearly a year ago. State officials had previously restricted the incentives to 1,600 megawatts of solar development statewide. The program was continued for residential projects. But the Baker administration said on Tuesday that development of larger projects has since ground to a halt.


Now, the administration has crafted a way to get to 3,200 megawatts over the next several years. The new system, which state officials christened the “Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target” program, provides financial incentives to solar developers that will decline over time, as more solar panels are connected to the grid.

State officials say the previous program cost the state’s ratepayers between $400 million and $500 million a year while the new program is expected to cost ratepayers $200 million to $240 million a year. The program also includes incentives to encourage solar developments on industrial sites or polluted properties, and to discourage them in open spaces, such as fields and forests. The incentives still need to go through a public hearing process before taking effect.

The new program is separate from net metering, a system in which solar panel owners are reimbursed for excess power that’s distributed onto the grid. That system has its own caps.

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.