The Sol SOURCE is a monthly journal that our team distributes to our network of clients and solar stakeholders. Our newsletter contains trends and observations gained through monthly interviews with our team, and it incorporates news from a variety of industry resources.
Massachusetts – It has finally happened! At the beginning of the month, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) announced that the official transition date from SREC II to its new incentive program, SMART, will occur on November 26, 2018. The ever-running SMART countdown has finally set its timer and the solar industry has some much-needed clarity on timelines.
With the date set, there’s now a race for more developed systems still aiming to make it into SREC II to achieve interconnection or mechanical completion by November 26; requirements vary based on system size. However, the thrill of the race won’t just be limited to SREC II solar energy systems, as November 26 will also commence a race to get into SMART’s initial, more lucrative block. As is the nature of declining block incentives, the first is always the one with the largest incentive dollar, with the idea being that each block will step down over time as solar becomes more cost competitive. The SMART Statement of Qualification portal will go live on November 26 and stay open until November 30 for its inaugural round of applications.
The DOER’s announcement, while very welcome, doesn’t mean all is set in stone. It follows the Department of Public Utility’s (DPU’s) release of their highly-anticipated SMART order in late September. This order was a key step in the lead up to the official start of SMART. However, it was not the final step and there are still some open-ended items to consider regarding forward-capacity markets. Additionally, electric distribution companies still need to file their individual responses to the DPU order now that it been released.
Overall, the DOER clarity was extremely important and project developers now know to get poised and in position. The gates are about to open.
Illinois – Illinois’ Adjustable Block Program (ABP), the state’s commercial solar program, revised its long-anticipated launch date to January 15, 2019. To prepare for the potential flood of applications into the program’s first block, the Illinois Power Administration drafted a proposal for a lottery process in case too many projects apply to any of the programs’ incentive blocks.
A lottery scenario is particularly relevant to the popular Community Shared Solar (CSS) program, as there is stakeholder concern of an excess of qualified applications. In its current form, the lottery program would give preference to CSS projects which have a higher proportion of individual subscribers, a continued effort by the state to incentivize residential involvement in community solar.
As the program’s launch draws closer, customers and developers will be looking to push deals across the finish line in order to qualify for the first block. Just as we mentioned in SMART, declining block incentive programs are designed with the most lucrative blocks to be earlier in the program. For this reason, time really is money, and customers should move quickly to reserve a place in the queue.
New Jersey – Last month, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) approved a three-year Community Solar Pilot Program; a longer term program is also being developed to follow the pilot. In early October, the BPU released the first draft of the program, which will allocate a maximum capacity of 75MW in the first year, with the following 2 years having a maximum capacity of at least 75MW. To put that in perspective, the Illinois community solar program is expected to reach 200 MW by 2020, and Minnesota, one of the leaders in community solar deployment, has installed more than 435 MW.
As the program is designed to widen access to renewables, low- to moderate-income (LMI) projects must comprise 40% of the program’s capacity. Projects gain this designation by having >51% LMI subscribers.
The draft received a lukewarm reception from stakeholders. Critics of the program have claimed that the 75MW was half of the 150MW recommended and the 40% LMI quota was far above the recommended 15%. Following last month’s study of an annual 150MW pilot that showed the program would create 1,700 new jobs earning a total of $414 million, the official pilot could potentially halve these numbers. Concerned stakeholders will have their opportunity to provide the state with comments by November 30, and rules may be modified up until the program’s start date on January 1, 2019.
The devil is always in the details for community solar, which is subject to complex regulatory regimes that can be make or break for the success of the program. To refresh on some of these details, check out our June 2017 article.
- At the 48th meeting of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a dire tone was set with the release of the panel’s first report commissioned since the Paris Climate Accords. While reports in the past have echoed the urgency of fighting climate change, the “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 ºC” projected the devastating effects of climate change may arrive much sooner than expected, with a global crisis possible by 2040. The report shocked even the climate scientists who worked in the report, and set a new level of urgency on the issue. The recommendation for avoiding the findings: transforming the world’s economy in a way that has “no documented historic precedent.” Solar energy’s continued progress has never been more globally relevant.
- Another Solar Power International (SPI) came and went last month, bringing with it a full showcase of the current state and future prospects of the industry. Although battery storage was once again a major topic of conversation, bifacial panels generated a lot of buzz on the expo floor, and Trina Solar even showcased bifacial panels on single-axis trackers. Bifacial panels have yet to make a dent in the market, but as more are deployed, the technology will shore up its current lack of reliable data on its added efficiency. Sol Systems VP of Engineering Joe Song offered his thoughts on this year’s conference to PV-Tech.
- California committed more than $800 million, around $160 million a year, to extend the state’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), now focused on incentivizing behind-the-meter storage. The state’s senate passed SB 700, known as the “Sun Shines at Night” at the end of August, and it was signed by Governor Brown at the end of September. The SGIP program, which has been around since 2006, will now continue until at least 2025.
- PJM completed its reliability study on the 4GW of coal power that utility FirstEnergy plans to shut down, finding that the closures pose no problem to the grid. When FirstEnergy announced the shutdowns in August, the company cited the lack of compensation provided for the plants’ “resiliency and fuel-security attributes” as the chief reason. As we see in study after study, the grid will do just fine without coal.
ABOUT SOL SYSTEMS
Sol Systems, a national solar finance and development firm, delivers sophisticated, customized services for institutional, corporate, and municipal customers. Sol is employee-owned, and has been profitable since inception in 2008. Sol is backed by Sempra Energy, a $25+ billion energy company.
Over the last ten years, Sol Systems has delivered 700 MW of solar projects for Fortune 100 companies, municipalities, universities, churches, and small businesses. Sol now manages over $650 million in solar energy assets for utilities, banks, and Fortune 500 companies.
Inc. 5000 recognized Sol Systems in its annual list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies for four consecutive years. For more information, please visit www.solsystems.com