A Perfect Storm for Zero Energy Homes in Massachusetts

Heat pump incentives now make Zero Net Energy Homes a slam dunk in Massachusetts.  The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (MA DOER) recently came out with powerful incentives for high efficiency air source heat pumps that highly encourage their use in Massachusetts.  They are called Alternative Energy Certificates (AEC) and work in a similar way to the popular Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC).  The small air source heat pumps do not require metering and pull forward 10 years of quarterly AECs into one payment to the buyer shortly after installation.  This makes the program user friendly and very attractive financially.

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The DOER came up with a Alternative Energy Certificate calculation tool to help in the process.  I plugged in 3,000 square feet for the conditioned area of the home, answered yes to the system supplying 100% of the heat load and said yes to the home having a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rating of less than 50.  The value of the 10 years of AEC payments is $6,000.  Here is the calculation tool that is available on line:

Zero Energy Home courtesy of TransFarmations, photo by David Ryan

Zero Energy Home courtesy of TransFarmations, photo by David Ryan

There is a long list of high efficiency heat pump products that meet the requirements of the MA DOER AEC program.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (Mass CEC) also has a incentive per mini-split system of up to $2,343.  There are additional incentive for high efficiency air source heat pumps in Massachusetts at this time.  The Mass Save program has an incentive of up to $800 per mini-split head depending on the unit.  Each of the two programs has a list of units that qualify and the amounts of each incentive.  

For an example, a Mitsubishi Electric Cooling and Heating MXZ-4C36NAHZ condenser would receive $6,000 from the MA DOER AEC program, $2,343 from the Mass CEC and potentially $400 from the Mass Save program.  $8,743 in incentives for installing a highly efficient fossil free heating system is a no brainer!

With a HERS index of less than 50, the new homes are ideally situated to then add solar and become zero net energy homes.  There are new Massachusetts SMART incentives for solar energy, the Federal tax incentive of 30% and the Massachusetts $1,000 state tax credit that make owning, financing or leasing solar very attractive.  

A builder, realtor, or any person who refers people who install a solar system can enjoy the financial benefits of going solar as well.  There is a program that I know of that has a $500 incentive for the first system, $1,000 for the second system and $2,000 for the third and future systems.  For instance, a developer/builder of an 11 lot development will receive $19,500 in referral fees for going solar and a developer/builder of an 28 unit project will receive $53,500 in referrals. The payments are expected in 2-3 weeks after the completed installation of each system.

The new building code has a HERS 55 requirement.  Stretching down to HERS 49 or lower to pick up the extra AEC adder is an easy lift.  Adding solar pays for itself in a variety of choices.  A lease usually receives a 30% discount off of the local utility rates and requires no up-front payments---only a credit score of 650 or higher..  A financed or purchased system usually pays for itself in about 6-7 years in Massachusetts.  There are various programs to finance a solar system including putting the system cost in the mortgage, or going to a bank to finance it separately.  When you own the system, you retain the SMART incentives and the Federal and State tax credits. 

The combined incentives make building and owning a zero net energy home in Massachusetts cash flow positive from day 1 for both the developer/builder and the home buyer---a positive perfect storm indeed!

R. Carter Scott has helped pioneer the development and building of zero net energy homes and communities in Massachusetts and currently serves on Governor Baker's Zero Net Energy Building (ZNEB) Advisory Council.  Please contact R. Carter Scott by email at carter.scott@TransFarmations.com or by phone at 978-597-0542.  Please get in touch with him or to find out more about the very strong solar referral programs or for consulting on getting to zero in Massachusetts and beyond.

R. Carter Scott