Friday, March 1, 2013
Community Shared Solar Legislation Moving Forward Across America
2013 could be the year for shared solar in the United States! Subscription model solar projects using virtual net metering (VNM) are becoming a new industry sector. Thousands of homes and businesses otherwise constrained by shade or limited space can now receive credit on their electric bills for solar power through the grid.
After the rapid growth of solar gardens in Colorado with XCEL Energy's Solar*Rewards Community program, the idea has started to catch on with utilities and citizens groups across the country, and new legislation is being introduced. I had a chance to have a conversation with Hannah Masterjohn at the Vote Solar Initiative - we cobbled together a list of active legislation in different states. For most of these states (California, DC, Maryland, and Hawaii) this is the second attempt at community solar / VNM legislation - there is a steep learning curve for legislators and advocates alike. Some fine tuning has happened as well, as more experience is gained with the model.
California - Shared Renewable Energy Self-Generation Program, SB43 - Introduced in 2012 as SB843, this bill died in the last hours of the legislative session. The new version of the bill includes provisions for low-income individuals, requires a percentage of the subscribers to be in the same county as the solar garden, and has a carve-out for solar gardens less than 1MW in size.
Connecticut - Comprehensive Energy Strategy, Governor's Bill 6360 - This bill allows for limited virtual net metering (say, between multiple meters of a property), and covers many different renewable technologies.
District of Columbia - Community Renewables Energy Act, B20-0057 - Establishes virtual net metering in the District. Projects up to 5 Megawatts with at least two subscribers are allowed. Unsubscribed energy credits will be distributed to users of the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This bill explicitly adopts the Interstate Renewable Energy Council's (IREC's) Community Renewables Model Program Rules, which are currently being updated.
Maryland - Community Energy-Generating Facilities Pilot Program HB1128 and SB699 - Allows for biomass, solar, wind, fuel cell, or small hydropower. A three-year, 75 MW pilot program is proposed, with facilities up to 2 MW and a minimum of two subscribers.
Hawaii - Community Based Renewable Energy Act SB1330 - This offsite solar / virtual net metering bill was recently tabled in committee, likely needing further study.
Nebraska - Community Solar Gardens LB557 - Expands net metering to include community solar gardens up to 2 MW. Similar to the 2010 Colorado Community Solar Gardens Act in many ways, significant authority is handed to the Public Utilities Commission.
Washington - Renewable Energy Incentives HB1301 - This bill would make changes to the existing community solar program in Washington state. The maximum size of 75 kilowatts remains unchanged. A clean energy fund with competitive process for incentives is established, and performance standards promulgated.
If you know of community solar legislation in states besides these, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add this state to the list.