ORIGINAL REPORTING: As states debate solar, contentious rate cases give way to broader valuation proceedings
As states debate solar, contentious rate cases give way to broader valuation proceedings; Fixed charges and net metering dominated solar debates in the second quarter, but the rate case is increasingly not the forum
Herman K. Trabish, August 18, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Since this story ran, there have been mixed results in regulatory proceedings but, on the whole, solar advocates and utilities seem to be turning toward pilot projects as a means to discover what works and what doesn’t.
Heated regulatory proceedings on rooftop solar and other distributed resources across the country continue to pit utilities against renewables and environmental advocates, but a close look shows the dialogue in some states could point to common ground. The vast majority of the 121 policy actions on distributed solar and rate design in the second quarter of 2016 involved the most contentious and familiar of utility solar issues, including 37 actions on net metering and 42 on fixed charges, according to the 50 States of Solar report. But a closer look at regulatory dockets in some states suggests the trend may indeed be changing, with more comprehensive valuation proceedings emerging from the most heated rate case debates.
An emerging trend in solar policy is more and deeper studies on solar valuation. Utilities’ fixed charge requests have, according to CETC numbers, continued to meet with resistance from regulators. Net metering and potential replacements for it are just beginning to be resolved. But as it has become clear that uncertain policy is impacting the solar market, regulators have turned to more nuanced rate design solutions now being developed as part of comprehensive reforms in California, New York, Hawaii, and Minnesota. Such proposals go beyond traditional cost of service ratemaking to tease apart rates, deploy market mechanisms, and build a least cost, most reliable electricity system in which consumers, utilities, and private providers can all emerge winners. The controversial proposals for fixed charge increases and net metering cuts are coming from rate cases but the most important and replicable solutions are coming from higher level proceedings… click here for more