You may have heard talk over the past couple of months about a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) expansion happening in the District of Columbia.  Well, it’s no longer just talk. Back in July, Mayor Bowser signed the initial bill, and it then went to Congress for review. Now, effective as of October 8, B21-0650, the Renewable Portfolio Standard Expansion Amendment Act of 2016, is officially law.

What are D.C.’s New Renewable Targets?

While the SACP has increased substantially under this law, the devil is in the details.

Graph 1

Figure 1: SACP schedules under new and old legislation

Under the act, D.C. must procure 50% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2032, and the solar requirement is now 5%. At these new levels, D.C. is now on par with other state clean energy leaders like California, New York, and Oregon in regards to RPS goals. Not only does the law increase the renewable requirements, but it also extends the alternative compliance payments for utilities that don’t meet these standards; this acts as a price ceiling in the marketplace. Under Section 6(c)(3), the current $500 penalty for every megawatt hour (MWh) of solar not met is extended to 2023 (reference Figure 1), and for the proceeding 9 years, until 2032, the alternative compliance payments for utilities stay in the couples of hundreds for utilities that don’t meet their requirements.

SREC Pricing: The Devil is in the Details

With an ACP that high, one may expect SREC values to hover around $500 for the foreseeable future.  Think again; the devil is in the details. As the legislations stands, existing load contracts from five years or less before this new law will still be subject to the old solar ACP schedule (reference Figure 1), which decreases to an ACP of $350 starting next year.  What this load amount will be is still uncertain; it could be large, or it could be small. The point here is that some of the market will be under different compliance obligations than others, and a $500 SREC price is not a safe assumption for SREC pricing in the short term. It might be a future outcome, but those who expected pricing to remain at current levels may be disappointed.

Conclusion

While D.C.’s new standards may not result in continued $500 SRECs, at least right away, the new law will help grow solar and other renewables in the District through 2032 and beyond, and the clean energy job market with them. In a statement by Mayor Bowser, her office estimated that the new bill will create 100 new green jobs within just the first year, and that number will increase year over year.

On top of that, the new law will have larger societal and environmental benefits. It will help the District meet its Sustainable DC Plan which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 50%. In addition, the new law creates a “Solar for All Program,” to be run by the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE).  This program hopes to reduce the energy burden for 100,000 low-income households by 2032, and will bring access to renewables to communities that may not have otherwise had the opportunity.

Overall, the Renewable Portfolio Standard Expansion Amendment Act is paving D.C.’s renewable future for everyone in the district, and establishing the District as a national leader in forward-thinking energy policy.

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