ORIGINAL REPORTING: How To Make A Good Community Solar Law
Keep it simple, states: Community solar developers say complex regulations stifle growth; Community solar is supposed to be a renewable energy panacea, but developers say extensive rules could constrain growth
Herman K. Trabish, October 20, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Community solar developers say the policies governing this emerging “solar for the other half” continue to be too complex.
Community solar’s dilemma is described in the old saying that a giraffe is a horse designed by a committee. Community solar, also referred to as “community shared solar” or “community solar gardens,” allows utility customers who cannot access rooftop solar to own a portion of a central-station array located near their power supplier’s distribution system. It was supposed to be the “promised land” where utilities, solar advocates, and environmentalists could forget bickering over net energy metering (NEM) and fight together for economically-viable clean energy. But instead of a boom, there are mostly unresolved debates over policies that seem to distort the promise.
The total U.S. installed community solar capacity will reach 1.5 GW by 2020 and grow four times over that between 2020 to 2025, Navigant Research reported in March 2016. Many say this underestimates the potential. Yet the total installed community solar capacity at the end of 2015 was only an estimated 88 MW. While Navigant estimated an addressable market potential of up to $2.5 billion by 2020, it found a U.S. market valued at only $175 million today. Given the segment’s immense potential, the statistics beg the question: why? Experts say big part of the answer is that state policy is crucial to growth because it impacts the economics of all customer solar options but state policies are not yet effectively driving growth. There are now community solar laws, rules, or policies completed or in development in 17 states and DC, and investor-owned utilities (IOUs), municipal utilities, and electric cooperatives in other states are pursuing individual plan approvals from regulators… click here for more