Starting on June 15th, 2015, National Grid will once again be accepting applications for the latest version of the RE Growth Program in Rhode Island. National Grid initially launched the RE Growth program in June 2011, with a goal of reaching 40MW of renewable energy procurement in Rhode Island by the end of 2014. The 2015 program plans to allow customers to sell generation under long-term tariffs at fixed prices. The program is open to solar, wind, hydro, and anaerobic digesters.

Previous Voyages

Starting off slow, the first two procurements of 2014 only totaled 4.5MW of renewable energy. The third procurement, however, totaled about 11MW, bringing the total amount of renewable energy to 15.5MW, split among 18 contracts.

2014 Procurements 1 2 3
Contracts Awarded 3 3 12
Total Capacity 1.9MW 2.6MW 11MW

The more successful third procurement pushed the total for the 2011-2014 procurements to 38.6MW, just shy of the 40MW goal. While both wind and medium solar (26-250kW) exceeded their target allocations of 1.5MW each, small (<25kW) and large (1-5MW) solar did not meet their targets of 500kW and 8.5MW, respectively. Small hydroelectric and anaerobic digestion were also very under-represented. There were no hydroelectric systems and only one anaerobic digestion facility awarded a contract in 2014.

One change to note is that during the 2014 procurements, the amount of contracts awarded in the third round was 12, compared to the first two rounds with 3 contracts each. The weighted average price awarded for solar also rose from 16.7 cents/kWh during the first procurement to 20.076 cents/kWh during the third. Because the program was not filled, those who did enter received higher pricing.

What’s Keeping People Out?

Why hasn’t Rhode Island’s latest incentive program been overwhelmed with applications? Non-participation could be due to a number of factors such as program structure, difficulty in finding sites, or lack of knowledge of the program. Developers may have also migrated to more cash rich Northeastern states such as Massachusetts, where they could build a larger or more lucrative pipeline of projects. Still, with development stalled in Massachusetts, don’t cross this state off from your list; it has the potential to be a great market to fit in a couple, although smaller, bonus projects each year.

Setting Sail for 2015

Announcing the RE Growth program structure for 2015, National Grid set new annual targets starting with 25MW for 2015, increasing to 40MW each year for 2016-2018, eventually reaching a total of 160MW by 2019. Pursuant to recommendations from developers and stakeholders, National Grid has changed the contract terms from 15 to 20 years, hopefully making the program more appealing and projects more financeable. The new program will also be implemented through a tariff rather than contracts. In an innovative move reflecting recent German practices as they transform into a scheme with more customer participation, and reminiscent of recent Massachusetts legislative proposals, qualifying facilities can be directly paid the tariff or integrate these tariff payments with net metering for the kWh value of their usage.

Selection Process

National Grid will be accepting small-scale solar applications on June 15th, and then will accept applications for the remaining classes between August 3 and August 14. For the 2015 enrollment period, the Distribution Generation Board set ceiling prices and capacity targets. (see table.) Small-scale and medium solar projects will receive a Standard PBI and will be selected on a first come, first served basis. Large and commercial-scale projects must submit a competitive bid at or below the ceiling price. These projects will be selected by lowest-price first. If any projects bid the same price and would exceed the specified target capacity, National Grid will select the project(s) that appear to be farthest along and that are most likely to be deployed.

Classes and Targets Applicable to the 2015 Enrollment

 Renewable Energy Class

(Nameplate kW)

Annual

Enrollment Target (Nameplate MW)

Ceiling Price/Standard PBI

(cents/kWh)

 

[20-yr Tariff Terms except *]

Small-Scale Solar – Host Owned

(1-10kW DC)

3.0

41.35

(*15-yr Tariff)

Small-Scale Solar – Host Owned

(1-10kW DC)

37.75

(*20-yr Tariff)

Small-Scale Solar – 3rd Party Owner

(1-10kW DC)

32.95

Small-Scale Solar

(11-25kW DC)

29.80

 

 

Renewable Energy Class (Nameplate kW)

Enrollment

Target (Nameplate kW)

Standard PBI

applicable to Medium Solar only (cents/kWh)

Ceiling Price w/ITC (cents/kWh)

Ceiling Price w/ PTC (cents/kWh)

Ceiling Price w/o ITC/PTC (cents/kWh)

Term

of Service (years)

Medium-Scale

Solar

(26-250 kW DC)

4,000 24.40 24.40

N/A

N/A

20

Commercial-

Scale Solar

(251-999 kW DC)

5,500

N/A

20.95

N/A

N/A

20

Large-Scale

Solar

(1,000-5,000 kW DC)

6,000

N/A

16.70

N/A

N/A

20

 

Fair Winds and Following Seas?

While the Rhode Island market has been understated in the past, highly creditworthy utility off-take and above-market rates will continue to appeal to investors, providing sufficient capacity can be won or aggregated in either the current program or future RE Growth Tariff program. We expect for this market to remain especially attractive to developers looking for opportunities as the Massachusetts market has stalled, and New York has fallen short of expectations.

Interested developers should contact our project finance team at finance@solsystems.com or (888) 235-1538 ext. 2 to see how Sol Systems can help secure financing for Rhode Island solar projects. Sol Systems has previously facilitated financing for solar projects in Rhode Island with feed-in tariff contracts.

ABOUT SOL SYSTEMS

Sol Systems is a solar energy finance and investment firm. The company has facilitated financing for nearly 200MW of distributed generation solar projects on behalf of Fortune 100 corporations, insurance companies, utilities, banks, family offices, and individuals. Sol Systems provides secure, sustainable investment opportunities to investor clients, and sophisticated project financing solutions to developers. The company’s tailored financial services range from tax structured investments and project acquisition, to debt financing and SREC portfolio management. For more information, please visit www.solsystems.com.