Oct. 2022 Policy Perch: Latest Community Solar Policy Insights

Community solar insights for developers and asset owners—from Perch Energy's expert policy team.
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Highlights

The latest news and announcements impacting community solar and the clean energy industry with key takeaways for your business.

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California

AB2316 Passes in California, enabling community solar in the single largest market in the country

The gist: The passage of AB2316 has the potential of a Swiss army knife, meeting multiple needs at once: It creates the first workable framework for community solar in California, it requires storage to alleviate grid concerns, and dovetails into the tax incentives available in the IRA by mandating 51% of each project serve low- to moderate-income customers. More than four in 10 Californians rent their homes, and of those renters 70% are considered low-income. If a rulemaking begins and maintains its schedule, hundreds of megawatts of solar and storage will be added to California’s grid by 2025.

POV from our Perch: Despite some previous false starts in building a community solar program, AB2316 acts as a flourish to meet the tax incentives of the IRA and shifts California to the front burner for the industry. This bill will allow the PUC to review existing programs and ensure that what is left benefits the most vulnerable of CA’s electric customers but also invest in meaningful projects to help address the growing demands on its grid. By mandating that the program requires all community solar projects to be paired with storage, this program can add GWs of additional solar capacity while also relieving some of CA’s peak demand needs.

What else to know:

  • The PUC must move quickly to establish the program rules while advocates remain united against opposition from utilities to gain the maximum benefits from the IRA.
  • Lessons learned in other states like NY and MA should be considered to ensure projects come online quickly, avoid delays, and have accountability mechanisms for utilities.
  • Servicers must be able to acquire, serve and retain customers with a large and linguistically diverse LMI customer base, with over 10 million speaking Spanish and over 1 million speaking Chinese.
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New York

New York’s billing & crediting docket: Establishing a process for utility accountability and negative revenue adjustments

The gist: After nearly a year of delays from NY utility companies and subsequent thousands of customers not receiving their utility bills or community solar savings for months, the NY PSC is implementing accountability measures. The commission will begin a rulemaking process to establish performance tracking metrics and enforce penalties when utilities fail to meet these metrics. This underscores NY’s commitment to community solar as a priority to meet its 10GW goal.

Read article >

POV from our Perch: Perch supports the NYPSC’s measures to hold utility companies accountable for not providing customers with the credits they are due. Utility companies have been hurting community solar’s reputation and impacting customers’ savings with the unacceptable billing delays from their own unwieldy manual processes and slow automation plans. With the commission’s stance, utility companies have a greater incentive for accuracy and timeliness, no longer at asset owners and servicing companies’ expense. Customers frustrated with community solar cancelled their subscriptions after being told by the utility that they are not receiving their utility bills because they are enrolled in community solar. Opening a new docket to address this topic immediately demonstrates the seriousness the state has when it comes to billing and crediting being delivered in a timely and accurate manner. Perch welcomes any action that strengthens the reliability of all stakeholders.

What else to know:

  • Utilities had to file updates to their automation plans by October 15th outlining progress, additional work, and thorough explanations for gaps and delays.
  • This will set a baseline for tracking and accountability. This move is impactful because it sets a standard of meaningful accountability for utilities for other markets. It places greater value on community solar as a priority and will likely reduce billing and crediting delays for customers.
  • This will create greater alignment between all stakeholders. Utilities should not continue to benefit regardless of their ability to deliver services to customers.
  • The first stakeholder conference will be held on November 9th, 2022.
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United States

Transmission permitting reform fails

The gist: The Energy Independence and Security Act led by Sen. Manchin included several provisions to speed up permitting for transmission infrastructure and prevent projects from being delayed by prolonged litigation. This bill failed to move forward over divides around easing fossil fuel infrastructure.

Read article >

POV from our Perch: The failure of the Energy Independence and Security Act is both a victory and a loss to climate advocates. Without speedier transmission infrastructure permitting, getting renewable energy to where it is needed falls outside of the current permitting timeline, which can take several years if not a decade. This is measured against preventing new fossil fuel infrastructure from being a deeper investment in carbon intensive energy sources when it should be tapering down. This bill included a key provision which would have granted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the power to permit long-range transmission lines and decide how to divvy up the costs for building them, which renewable advocates have long sought. We risk missing out on the bulk of the IRA’s benefits as long as FERCs role in transmission infrastructure regulation remains unclear.

What else to know:

  • With the additional funding provided in IRA and the focus on renewable energy expansion, major grid upgrades will be necessary to meet those green energy goals.
  • Federal efforts to streamline solar permitting has resulted in a substantial reduction in soft costs and the development of innovative tools to facilitate renewable energy development.
  • In Q3 2021 community solar installations fell 21% from the previous year with some states experiencing up to 40% project attrition due to interconnection problems and rising costs.
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Dates to be aware of

October

  • 10/17: NY Billing and Crediting utility filings due
  • 10/26: End of Pennsylvania legislative session

November

  • 11/4: IRS requests for information on IRA implementation due
  • 11/9: NY PSC virtual stakeholder conference on performance metrics and negative revenue adjustment mechanisms 10-12pm EST

December

  • 12/1: New Mexico RFP release Future Guidance from Dept. Of Treasury, Dept of Energy Information from DoE on NCSP pilot NM utility tariffs rejected, to be resubmitted

What we're reading in November, 2022

 

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