Oregon regulators ease community solar guidelines

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The Oregon Public Utility Commission has approved policy changes to the Community Solar Program intended to increase residential and low-income customer enrollments in the program.

The changes include:

  • Opening up to development the remaining 80 MW of PG&E and Pacific Power’s combined program allotment of 160 MW, which was being withheld until a later date.
  • Increasing the discount that low-income customers receive from 20% to 40%.
  • Reducing the bill credit for participating non-residential customers to 90% of the customer’s retail rate, in order to minimize the cost impact to ratepayers.
  • Adding an annual 2% escalator on the bill credit rate to support subscribing more residential customers and to reflect expectations that retail electricity rates will increase over time.
  • Retaining the 25 percent carve-out for community-based projects, to ensure that smaller, more innovative projects and projects managed by local non-profit organizations have an opportunity to participate.

Outside of PG&E and Pacific Power’s 160 MW, Idaho Power has an allocated capacity of 3.28 MW, which has been available since day one of the program.

“While we agreed to allow the adjusted program to move forward in order to capture more residential customers, including low-income customers, we will not further expand the program until all existing capacity is subscribed, including capacity reserved for small, community-based programs,” said Oregon Public Service Commission Chair, Megan Decker, reflecting concerns over program costs and outcomes that existed across the Commission. “The legislative goals of the program are challenging to balance with its current design, which may need to change significantly before it could be expanded further.”

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