TODAY’S STUDY: The Solar Policy Debate Right Now
The 50 States of Solar: Q3 2019 October 2019 (North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center)
OVERVIEW OF Q3 2019 POLICY ACTION
In the third quarter of 2019, 42 states plus DC took a total of 150 actions related to distributed solar policy and rate design (Figure 1). Table 1 provides a summary of state actions related to DG compensation, rate design, and solar ownership during Q3 2019. Of the 150 actions cataloged, the most common were related to DG compensation rules (53), followed by residential fixed charge and minimum bill increases (40), and community solar (27).
TOP FIVE SOLAR POLICY DEVELOPMENTS OF Q3 2019
Five of the quarter’s top policy developments are highlighted below.
Louisiana Public Service Commission Approves Net Metering Reforms
The Louisiana Public Service Commission approved a net metering successor tariff in September 2019, which will provide avoided cost compensation for all energy exported to the grid, beginning in January 2020. Existing net metering customers will be grandfathered for 15 years, and the new rules also authorize the development of community DG facilities, which will be credited at the avoided cost rate.
Connecticut DEEP files Proposed Shared Solar Program Rules
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection filed proposed program requirements for the state’s shared clean energy facility program in early July 2019. Under the proposed rules, utilities would conduct an annual solicitation of up to 25 MW for six years for shared clean energy facilities. Projects would be required to be 4 MW or under and have at least 10 subscribers, with subscribers either making a one-time payment or monthly payments.
Xcel Energy Proposes Changes to Value of Solar Methodology in Minnesota
Xcel Energy filed a petition in August 2019 to modify its value of solar methodology. The utility is seeking to change the way avoided distribution capacity costs are calculated. Under the current methodology, which serves as the basis for community solar credits, the value of solar is scheduled to increase from its 2019 rate of 11.09 cents per kWh to 24.84 cents per kWh in 2020.
Hawaii Public Utilities Commission Opens New Proceeding on DERs
The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission opened a new proceeding in September 2019 to investigate the technical, economic, and policy issues associated with DERs for the HECO companies. The proceeding will consider new DER programs, the future of existing DER programs, advanced rate designs, interconnection improvements to facilitate DER integration, and legacy equipment.
Massachusetts Regulators Reject National Grid’s Minimum Monthly Reliability Contribution
The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued an order in National Grid’s general rate case in late September 2019, rejecting the utility’s proposed minimum monthly reliability contribution (MMRC) for net metering customers, which would have taken the form of an additional fixed monthly fee. The DPU instead encouraged the state’s three investorowned utilities to work toward developing a standardized MMRC structure.
THE BIG PICTURE: INSIGHTS FROM Q3 2019
Utilities Proposing More Modest Residential Fixed Charge Increases
Utilities are, in general, proposing more modest residential fixed charge increases than they have in recent years. In Q3 2019, the median residential fixed charge increase requested (among only requests to increase such charges by at least 10%) was $3.00. In 2018, the median requested increase was $3.87, while the median request was $4.00 in 2017 and $4.07 in 2016. Many utilities are also filing general rate case applications that keep the residential fixed charge at its current level. At least 18 utilities currently have rate case applications pending with either a proposed fixed charge increase of less than 10%, no fixed charge increase, or a fixed charge decrease.
States Considering Credit Adders for Community Solar Projects Serving Low-Income Customers
While a broader trend continues of states considering how to encourage low-income participation in community solar programs, several states have recently been specifically considering credit adders for community solar projects serving low-income customers. Designing community solar programs that provide a financial benefit to subscribers has been a challenge in building low-income customer participation, so some states are considering credit adders as a method of ensuring the program provides a financial benefit. The Governor of New Hampshire signed a bill in July 2019 establishing an adder for low and moderate income community solar projects. Advocates proposed adders for residential and low-income subscribers for the second phase of Hawaii’s community-based renewable energy program. The existing Solar Massachusetts Renewable Energy Target (SMART) program also provides a credit adder for community solar projects serving low-income customers.
Stakeholders Reaching Agreements on Net Metering Reform in Some States, But Not Others
While stakeholders in some states, such as South Carolina, are reaching major compromise agreements on net metering reform, stakeholders remain divided in other states. In Arkansas’ net metering successor proceeding, the net metering working group was tasked with submitting a filing of agreed-upon rules, but the group reported that it was unable to reach consensus on any of the rules. In Louisiana, the Public Service Commission adopted a net metering successor tariff in September 2019, but this decision is not supported by many of the proceeding’s stakeholders, with some already filing petitions for rehearing and reconsideration. A settlement conference had been held in Louisiana, but parties were unable to reach consensus.