ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Debates About Solar Get Bigger, More Interesting
Why 'a lot has become the new normal' in state solar policy debates; A new report outlines 5 key decisions and 4 trends from the solar sector's busiest policy quarter yet
Herman K. Trabish, Nov. 10, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Solar policy debates continue to proliferate. Where an issue is settled, a more granular debate emerges.
The skyrocketing growth of distributed solar is keeping policymakers as busy as utilities and rooftop installers…There were over 100 separate solar policy actions debated by state regulators and legislators across the U.S. in the third quarter of 2016, up significantly from just last year, according to the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (CETC) 50 States of Solar report. In Q1 2015, there were 70 solar policy actions, but in Q3 2016 there were 117 policy actions. There are at least three drivers behind the expansion of policy debates.
First, more utility territories are seeing residential solar growth due to declining installed costs, buoyed by to the long term extension of 30% federal investment tax credit. As a result, more utilities worry that solar owners do not pay their fair share for grid upkeep, transferring the costs to other customers. The potential impact of that perceived cost shift grows as solar’s penetration on the grid grows, leading utilities and some state consumer advocates to call for rate design changes. Third, states reaching their caps on net metering programs trigger policy reviews. The 117 policy actions in Q3 2016 were spread across 42 states and a range of debate types. The most common were proposals for fixed charge increases, changes to net metering, and value of solar studies or evaluations of net metering’s costs and benefits… click here for more