TODAY’S STUDY: The Fight For Solar Right Now
50 States of Solar; Q3 2017 Quarterly Report
Autumn Proudlove Brian Lips David Sarkisian Achyut Shrestha, October 2017 (North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center)
In the third quarter of 2017, 41 states plus DC took a total of 142 actions related to distributed solar policy and rate design (Figure 1). Table 1 provides a summary of state actions related to net metering, rate design, and solar ownership during Q3 2017. Of the 142 actions catalogued, the most common were related to residential fixed charge and minimum bill increases (44), followed by net metering (36), and solar valuation or net metering studies (23).
Top Five Solar Policy Developments Of Q3 2017
Five of the quarter’s top policy developments are highlighted below.
NV Energy Submits Proposal to Implement A.B. 405 Net Metering Changes
After terminating net metering in 2015, the Nevada Legislature restored it with A.B. 405, which the Governor signed in June 2017. The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada held expedited proceedings to implement the policy changes. In its July filing, NV Energy presented tariffs that represented net billing, rather than net metering, and proposed an increase in the fixed charge for all residential customers. In a September decision, the Commission rejected NV Energy's tariffs, arguing that the plain language of A.B. 405 requires a return to traditional net metering, which utilizes a monthly netting period.
Utah Begins Transition Away From Net Metering
In September 2017, the Utah Public Service Commission approved a settlement agreement ending retail rate net metering for new DG customers starting November 15th. A transition program with a reduced export credit rate will begin for new DG customers at this time, until a more permanent export credit rate is determined through an in-depth proceeding. The export credit proceeding is expected to conclude within three years.
Kansas Corporation Commission Makes DG Policy Determination
The Kansas Corporation Commission approved a settlement in September 2017, making a general determination that residential DG customer rates should be cost-based and not include any unquantifiable benefits. The Commission also noted that it is appropriate to create a separate customer class for DG customers and apply demand or DG capacity-based charges. However, any changes to tariffs will take place in utility-specific filings.
Idaho Power Requests a Separate Customer Class for DG Customers
In July 2017, Idaho Power filed a proposal to separate new residential and general service customers with on-site generation into unique customer classes. Idaho Power is not currently proposing any rate changes for these customers, but the utility requested that a generic docket be opened to develop a new compensation structure for customer-sited DERs. Idaho is one of five states without statewide net metering or other DER compensation rules.
Illinois Begins Implementation of Community Solar Program
Pursuant to the Future Energy Jobs Act, the Illinois Power Agency published a draft version of its Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement plan in September 2017, while utilities filed proposed community net metering tariffs. The new tariffs compensate participants at the retail electric supply rate, but do not include transmission and distribution components. The draft plan includes funding for a low-income community solar incentive program and a competitive bidding program for low-income community solar pilot projects.
The Big Picture: Insights From Q3 2017
States Taking an Incremental Approach to Net Metering Reforms
In several states’ recent net metering decisions, the principle of gradualism has emerged as a common thread. For example, state utilities commissions in Louisiana and New Hampshire opted to make minor changes to their net metering policies this year while more comprehensive reforms are considered. In Q3 2017, the Utah Public Service Commission approved a settlement agreement including a net metering transition tariff that will be in effect while parties determine the export credit rate structure over a three-year period.
Diverse Community Solar Credit Rate Structures Under Consideration
Following in the footsteps of net metering, community solar programs are beginning to deviate more and more from traditional retail rate crediting. Furthermore, states are taking quite diverse approaches to community solar credit rates, just as they are with net metering rates. Minnesota, New York, and Oregon are utilizing value-based approaches, while Hawaii is considering time varying rates, and Illinois and North Carolina are using rates based upon avoided cost or energy supply costs.
New Efforts to Create Separate Customer Classes for DG Customers
Utilities, as well as some policymakers and regulators, are showing increased interest in the separation of DG customers into a unique customer class. Utilities in Idaho and Iowa recently requested the creation of a new customer class for DG customers without proposing any changes to rates for these customers at this time. Legislation in Montana opens the door to this type of differentiation, and regulators in Kansas recently issued a determination that it is appropriate to separate DG customers into a separate class.
Questions Emerge About Solar-Plus-Storage Compensation
Multiple states, primarily in the northeast, are considering the eligibility of solar-plus-storage systems to participate in net metering. Following multiple requests for advisory rulings on the topic, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities opened an inquiry into solar-plus-storage net metering eligibility in early October, while Rhode Island and New York are also addressing this issue.