Here are this week’s attacks on net metering and more solar news state-by-state.
Regulators in Maine have announced the results of the state’s largest renewables procurement to date. While multiple generation sources were accepted under the procurement, the vast majority of capacity was given to solar — 482 MW of the 546 MW of projects approved.
The solicitation for the 17 approved projects came as Maine pursues its renewable portfolio standard, which currently sits at 80% by 2030, with an additional goal, but not mandate, of 100% by 2050.
This is a huge development for the state, which has only seen about 90 MW of installed solar capacity thus far, good for 43rd in the nation. Even beyond this procurement, that figure is set for major upheaval, with Wood Mackenzie estimating that 800 MW of PV will be added in the next five years.
Average winning contract rates were $0.035/kWh, ranging from $0.029 to $0.042/kWh, as pointed out by a pv magazine commenter and confirmed by the Portland Press Herald.
Just one state south, Vermont state regulators are set to make a decision regarding the rates and compensation structure of net metering very soon, likely by mid-October.
Solar advocates in the state are worried that the program’s compensation rates will be further reduced or eliminated entirely. This, in combination with the decline of the federal investment tax credit set to take place at the start of 2021, would make small-scale solar unfeasible for a significant portion of the state’s population, which would have ripple effects across the entire industry, first and foremost being a significant drop-off in solar jobs in the state. Between 2017 and 2020, Vermont lost 408 solar jobs due to changes in the net metering program, according to Renewable Energy Vermont.
The rate currently stands at 2¢/kWh, down from a high of 6¢ in 2011. The rate has dropped by a penny at every single review since that 2011 mark. According to one residential installer in the area, that 2¢ drop equates to a loss of about $2,000 over a 10-year period.
The public comment period for this review ended Aug. 31.
We have good news, for now, from Arizona, where state regulators have voted not to reduce the solar export credit rate paid to rooftop customers for energy, at least not this year.
BREAKING: In response to covid, @CorpCommAZ votes NOT to reduce rate paid to rooftop solar customers for energy this year! Thanks to commissioners @LeaPeterson @SandraDKennedy @rburnsazt @BoydDunnAZ for supporting AZ families and business with this important action. @AriSEIA
— Court Rich (@Court_Rich) September 23, 2020
The rates currently sit at 10.45¢/kWh for Arizona Public Service customers and 8.68¢/kWh for Tucson Electric Power customers. Under the rate program’s design, which was instituted after the state phased-out net metering, the rates are scheduled to drop 10% every October.
The decision not to lower the rates in 2020 came in response to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to a letter from Vote Solar, unemployment rates in the state’s clean energy workforce sit around 12%, which translates to roughly 7,495 unemployed workers. Much like Renewable Energy Vermont argued to their state’s regulators, Vote Solar puts forth that a reduction of the RCP would further damage the industry at a time when it is already in a precarious position.
The decision was applauded by Vote Solar, with Interior West Director Art Terrazas saying, “The Commission made the right call today. A global pandemic and financial crisis is no time to be reducing solar savings and solar value for Arizona families. And the Commission can do more to promote solar and quickly transition Arizona to a clean energy future. Tomorrow in their special meeting they must stop delaying and move forward with a 100% clean energy standard.”
Another state, another debate over the true value of exported rooftop solar. This time, Utah regulators will be holding a hearing, starting October 5, one which is already gaining attention over the prices proposed by the contending sides.
Rocky Mountain Power’s current price sits at an average of 9.2¢/kWh, which the utility is now asking be replaced by an average of 1.5¢/kWh. Enter Vote Solar, again, as the group has argued that the actual value is 22.6¢/kWh. These rates, like the rates in Arizona, have been put in as replacements for the popular net metering program that ended in 2017.
It should be noted that this rate will only impact customers who adopt solar beginning in 2021. Legacy net metering customers and Transition Program customers will maintain their current rates through 2035 and 2032, respectively. After those programs expire, net metering customers and Transition Program customers would be put onto whatever rates are in place at the time.
Vote Solar is also calling on regulators to abandon this rate structure entirely and move back to net metering.
Other rooftop solar advocates have pointed out that Rocky Mountain Power’s low rate doesn’t reflect the additional benefits of rooftop solar: reduced pressure on the electrical grid, increased penetration of renewable energy without Rocky Mountain Power having to invest in new projects, etc.
Much like in Vermont, this has also become an issue of employment. New rooftop solar installations in Utah went from 4,140 in 2016 to 12,408 in 2017 before falling to 3,540 last year, in response to the axing on the state’s net metering program, according to the Utah Solar Energy Association. With this drop in installations has come the loss of 600 job in the state. Tesla opted not to open a regional sales office in the state, and other solar vendors have pulled out or essentially stopped selling residential solar.
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