MONDAY STUDY: The Fight For Solar Goes On
The 50 States of Solar: Q3 2020
October 2020 (North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC)
OVERVIEW OF Q3 2020 POLICY ACTION
In the third quarter of 2020, 42 states plus DC took a total of 146 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 2020. Of the 146 actions cataloged, the most common were related to DG compensation rules (58), followed by community solar (35), and residential fixed charge and minimum bill increases (21).
TOP FIVE SOLAR POLICY DEVELOPMENTS OF Q3 2020
Five of the quarter’s top policy developments are highlighted below.
Duke Energy and Solar Advocates Reach Net Metering Settlement in South Carolina In September 2020, Duke Energy and solar advocates announced a compromise proposal for South Carolina’s net metering successor tariff (the “Solar Choice Metering Tariff”). The innovative proposal includes mandatory time-of-use rates and crediting, a monthly minimum bill, certain non-bypassable charges, and an upfront incentive for participation in the utility’s smart thermostat program.
New York Regulators Approve Successor Tariff for Mass Market Projects
The New York Public Service Commission approved a net metering successor tariff for mass market projects (residential and small commercial behind-the-meter projects for customers not using demand billing) in July 2020. The tariff continues retail rate net metering, but includes a new monthly Customer Benefit Contribution ranging from $0.69 to $1.09 per kW. The new tariff will take effect for mass market projects interconnected after January 1, 2022.
Ameren, Solar Advocates, and Regulators Clash Over Net Metering in Illinois
Ameren and solar advocates disputed the formula for calculating distributed generation capacity in Illinois during Q3 2020, with Ameren claiming that it has reached the state’s aggregate cap for retail rate net metering. The Commission opened an investigation in early October to determine whether Ameren has reached this cap. In the meantime, Ameren has closed its net metering tariff to new customers beginning October 2, 2020.
Locational Value of Distributed Generation Study Published in New Hampshire
The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission Staff filed its locational value of distributed generation study, conducted by Guidehouse Consulting, in August 2020. The study provides detailed analysis of a subset of locations, finding that the maximum hourly value of capacity investment avoidance ranges from less than $1 per kWh to over $4,000 per kWh. The lower values tend to indicate a capacity deficiency occurring over a large number of hours, while the high values represent a capacity deficiency occurring during fewer hours.
Net Metering 3.0 Proceeding Kicks Off in California
In August 2020, the California Public Utilities Commission kicked off its Net Metering 3.0 efforts. This proceeding will focus on developing a successor to the existing Net Metering 2.0 tariff. A draft “lookback study” was released in August, which examines the cost of service for Net Metering 2.0 customers. The study found that, on average, residential Net Metering 2.0 customers pay lower bills than the cost to serve them and that non-residential customers pay slightly more than the cost to serve them.
THE BIG PICTURE: INSIGHTS FROM Q3 2020
States Exploring Time-of-Use Rates for Net Metering Customers
As states continue efforts to develop successor tariffs to traditional net metering, several have been considering the use of time-of-use rates and crediting for customer-generators. During Q3 2020, Duke Energy and solar stakeholders reached a major settlement in South Carolina’s net metering successor tariff proceeding. The proposed net metering successor tariff (Solar Choice Metering Tariff) would include time-of-use rates with four periods: peak, off-peak, super off-peak, and critical peak. In Virginia, Dominion Energy requested approval to allow customers to net metering under its new time-of-use rate. El Paso Electric has also proposed adding a provision to its time-of-day rate to clarify that net metering customers may participate and receive time-varying net metering credit rates. As advanced metering infrastructure continues to proliferate, it is expected that additional states and utilities will consider time-of-use rates for net metering participants.
State Value of Solar Studies Continue to Show Widely Varying
Results Multiple value of solar or net metering cost-benefit studies were completed during Q3 2020, which continue to show widely varying results. In California, a draft study evaluating the state’s Net Metering 2.0 program found that residential net metering customers pay lower bills than the utility’s cost to serve them, on average. The study also found that non-residential customers pay slightly higher bills than the cost to serve them. Another California study commissioned by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District found that the value of customer solar and solar-plusstorage systems is $0.03 to $0.07 per kWh. In Connecticut, a draft value of distributed energy resources study found that the 25-year levelized value for behind-the-meter solar is $0.141 per kWh and the value for behind-the-meter solar paired with storage is $0.228 per kWh. Xcel Energy also filed its 2021 value of solar rate calculation during the quarter, which is $0.1104 per kWh levelized over 25 years.
COVID-19 Impacting Utility Rate Cases and Regulator Decisions
COVID-19 has been affecting the electricity sector in a variety of ways, including utility and regulator decisions related to rates and solar policy. Since COVID-19 hit the U.S., electric utilities have filed notably fewer rate case applications than in past years. During Q3 2020, only three investor-owned utilities filed rate case applications, with only one proposing a residential fixed charge increase. In Q3 2019, 14 utilities filed general rate case applications, with 10 of these utilities proposing residential fixed charge increases. DTE Electric announced that it will delay its rate case filing until at least March 2021. In Arizona, regulators put off the investorowned utilities’ net metering export credit rate decrease until October 2021, recognizing that many property owners wanting to install solar may have had to delay their plans due to the pandemic and economic circumstances.