Community solar pilot extended in Maryland

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Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) has signed into law HB683, a bill modifying the state’s popular community solar pilot program.

The legislation keeps the state’s community solar market open through 2022, at which point the Public Service Commission (PSC) is to deliver a long-term path for proceeding with the program or one of a similar structure. However the bill also comes with some key changes for the program, intended to expand access.

Under HB683, the maximum capacity for a community solar project has been raised to 2 MW and the cap on the maximum number of customers that can subscribe to a community solar project has been abolished. However, the pilot is still operating under the original provisions of a total statewide allocation of 196 MW.

Additionally 30% of the capacity is still set aside for low-to-moderate income customers wishing to participate and another 30% for development on brownfield sites, though the two could reasonably see some overlap, if a developer wanted to build a project for low-to-moderate customers on a brownfield. Outside of the provisions, the remaining capacity, roughly 78 MW, is open for any and all types of community solar development.

This is the second piece of renewable energy legislation to pass the Maryland House and Senate in as many months, though the other one, the state’s solar-sided RPS initiative is still languishing on Governor Hogan’s desk.

That bill calls for 50% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable resources by 2030, with the monumental carveout that 15% of that 2030 figure come from solar resources. Were that legislation to be signed, these two would supplant Gov. Hogan as one of the nation’s leading Republicans in terms of supporting the transition to renewable energy.

Hogan vetoed a proposed RPS increase in 2017, stating that his issue with that legislation came from the cost of the bill. Recent studies have shown that the new RPS would be economic for the state’s ratepayers, so it is unclear why Hogan is balking on signing the bill.

Either way, what we’re here to talk about today is community solar and it’s a great day to be a community solar supporter in Maryland. Let’s hope we’re echoing the same sentiments in 2022 and that the PSC extends the program form a pilot to a full-scale program.