I've proposed this abstract for the Solar 2014 conference in San Francisco this coming July. I'm interested in getting your thoughts for open communication protocols that would empower broader adoption of shared renewable systems. Feel free to discuss in the comments below, or send commentary to me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shared renewable energy systems offer credit on customer utility bills through virtual net metering. Shared systems are often managed by third parties, which must communicate the proportional ownership for each account to the utility on a regular basis. Utilities use a variety of different billing software packages and billing credit methodologies. Open communication standards would allow billing software vendors to develop shared renewable APIs, and might encourage the creation of open source tools for shared system managers. Such tools might lower fixed costs and lower the barriers to entry for community nonprofits, solar integrators, and small utilities, thereby speeding development of shared renewable systems.
The Department of Energy's SunShot initiative has set a goal of 5000 megawatts of community and shared solar systems by 2020. Open standards are one approach to meeting this goal, along with standardized business structures for shared systems in the public domain and open source software for shared system managers such as nonprofits and municipalities. By partnering with these entities, utilities can gain public relations benefits and lower the overall costs of managing the systems. Small, local solar integrators would be able to enter the shared solar marketplace, increasing the community character of the systems.
Information communicated between utilities and system managers includes proportional ownership by customer participants, moves and transfers of ownership by participants, and system production details which might assist in the operations and management of the systems. Customer participants might be able to access this data on the web and on mobile devices in real time. Standard protocols for protecting the privacy and security of customer data can be put in place. This paper proposes, in sample form, a set of open standard for shared renewable communication for general discussion.