With 2020 drawing to a close, a trio of actions in three states are affecting both residential and utility-scale solar. Here’s a rundown of recent developments.
A decision in a Consumers Energy rate case is not one that solar advocates were hoping for.
The order approves a $100 million rate hike for Consumers, 39% of what the utility requested. The rate hike also comes with Consumers lifting its net metering cap from 1% to 2%. That increase was linked by the utility to the rate hike’s approval. So, although more Michigan customers will have access to residential solar, it won’t be as lucrative as before, since Consumers will pay an outflow rate roughly half of the net metering rate.
“Consumers Energy’s distributed generation tariff shortchanges DG customers who provide significant value to the grid,” said Kevin Lucas, Director of Rate Design at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “We are disappointed to see the Michigan Public Service Commission approve a rate that devalues solar and is not justified by any analysis.”
Regulators also ordered a third-party study on the impact of Distributed Energy Resources (DER). The study will examine the costs and benefits of all DERs, including rooftop solar, battery storage, electric vehicles and demand response, and will vet different approaches to setting rates for DER customers.
State utility regulators lowered the compensation rates paid to Vermont net metering customers by 3¢. Net metered solar operators currently are paid between 13.4¢ to 17.4¢ per kWh generated.
The cut, in conjunction with the phasing out of the investment tax credit, has the state’s solar proponents worried about a loss of jobs, as new projects become less economically attractive.
Concurrently, Synapse Energy Economics released a report showing that behind-the-meter solar created $1.1 billion in energy benefits for the six New England states from 2014-2019. Behind-the-meter solar also cut carbon dioxide emissions by 4.6 million tons across all of New England.
Because of the emissions reductions (and independent of the $1.1 billion in energy benefits), the Synapse report placed an $87 million public health value on the use of solar during in New England over the five-year period.
Vermont ranks third among New England states in terms of overall solar capacity, at roughly 360 MW, trailing Connecticut and Massachusetts. A significant portion of Vermont’s solar success has come from a healthy residential solar market.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is accepting feedback on an Environmental Assessment report for the proposed Golden Triangle Solar Project in Lowndes County, Mississippi.
Golden Triangle stems from a 2019 request for proposals (RFP) for renewable energy resources, aimed at helping the utility meet goals established in its 2019 Integrated Resource Plan.
The solar energy project would clock in at 50 MW and be accompanied by a 50 MW/200 MWh battery energy storage system. TVA has tentatively approved an agreement to buy the project’s electricity and environmental attributes under a power purchase agreement (PPA).
While roughly two-thirds of the project would sit on land previously used for agriculture, the project’s footprint does cover a significant portion of forests and wetlands, two areas that are always of concern for conservationists.
TVA outlined two courses of action following the comment period: a “No Action Alternative” in which TVA would have no involvement with the project or its development, and an “Action Alternative” in which the development and PPA would be carried out as planned. To read the Environmental Assessment report or leave comments, click here.
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