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Clean Energy Incentive Program Marches Along Despite Clean Power Plan Stay

Despite the “stay” halting implementation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) earlier this year, rulemaking regarding the national Environmental Protect Agency’s (EPA) Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) continues. The purpose of the CEIP is to encourage early investment in renewable energy (i.e. wind and solar) and other technologies prior to the effective date of the Clean Power Plan. Generation from carbon-free renewable energy – such as solar – is incentivized in 2020 and 2021, the two years prior to the CPP compliance period: 2022- 2030. The CEIP is a voluntary program; states are not mandated to participate.

Over the past several months, the EPA has undergone extensive outreach and engagement to create the CEIP framework. On June 16th, the EPA released its proposed design details for the CEIP in a 206-page document.

Focal Points of the Program

The CEIP is designed to jump-start investments in solar and wind prior to the effective date of the Clean Power Plan. Wind and solar were chosen because of their rapid development timelines, though the EPA is considering the addition of limited amounts of geothermal and hydropower as eligible renewable energy sources. For each megawatt hour (MWh) of generation, states will be issued one Emission Rate Credit (ERC) or emission allowances. Each CEIP project that receives these awards are then able to sell or transfer their ERCs or allowances to affected power plants, who may then use them for compliance with an emission standard under the Clean Power Plan.

Solar and wind facilities that commence construction or operations after submission of their state plans or after September 2018 may qualify for the CEIP.

ERC vs. REC: What’s the Difference?

At first glance, an ERC sounds very familiar to a Renewable Energy Credit (REC), but they are different in nature. An ERC is a zero-emission MWh, whereas a REC is the generation attribute of one MWh. A webinar by the Clean Energy States Alliance on the Clean Power Plan and State RPS programs provides more clarification on the difference between the two credits. A key point stated was that an ERC and a REC can be generated from the same MWh and then sold in their respective marketplaces. This new knowledge may lead to additional revenue for solar projects.

States with Strong Renewables Policies Will Flourish under CEIP

Because CEIP incentivizes projects that commence construction or operations beginning in September 2018, states that have created markets to encourage early investment in clean energy will be better equipped to take advantage of the incentive program. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), states currently with renewable electricity standards are projected to support more than 103,000MW of renewable energy capacity by 2025.

A renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is one such tool that a state may utilize to encourage renewable energy investments. To better equip themselves to take advantage of the CEIP and ultimately comply with the CPP, states have begun to strengthen their renewable energy commitments. For example, Oregon recently increased their renewables targets to 50% by 2040. Only a couple weeks ago, Rhode Island lawmakers passed a bill to increase their RPS to 40% by 2035.

Several states have recently passed legislation to strengthen their renewable energy targets. On the contrary, OH has frozen its standard.

Several states have recently passed legislation to strengthen their renewable energy targets. On the contrary, OH has frozen its standard.

Examples like Oregon and Rhode Island, among others, contrast with a state like Ohio, which has frozen its modest 12.5% target. Maryland also passed legislation to strengthen its RPS earlier this year, only to face a veto from Governor Hogan.

Clean Energy Incentive Program: It’s Coming

The EPA will accept public comments on this proposal through September 2nd, 2016. In addition, a public hearing on the proposed project details will be held in Chicago on August 3rd from 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (CST).

No matter the forms that the CEIP and CPP ultimately take, one thing is certain: states with strong renewables targets – such as an RPS – will lead the way.

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Small ZREC Program in Connecticut Set to Launch before the Holidays

Following the ‘Small ZREC Tariff Program: Applicants Informational Meeting’ held on November 27, 2012, United Illuminating Company (“UI“) and Connecticut Light & Power (“CL&P“) initially announced that the small ZREC program was set to open on December 21,

Connecticut small ZREC program set to open before the holidays.

Connecticut small ZREC program set to open before the holidays.

2012.  However, the December 21st date has now been officially changed to January 8, 2013, as UI and CL&P had requested that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (“PURA”) delay the program to avoid the opening of the solicitation in the midst of the holiday season and this delay was approved. There will be a two week window for when applications may be submitted into the program.

In conjunction, the utilities also announced the completion of the Medium and Large ZREC RFP.  UI’s large and medium contracts were approved by the PURA on October 11, 2012, and CL&P’s large and medium contracts were approved on November 21, 2012.  The pricing for the small ZREC program is fixed for a term of 15 years.  This pricing is based off of the weighted average of the medium ZREC price.  The pricing for each utility is as follows:

  • Proposed UI rate = $148.89/ZREC
  • Proposed CL&P rate = $164.22/ZREC

To participate in the small ZREC program, projects meet the following criteria:

  • Must be located behind contracting utility revenue meter and have a dedicated REC meter
  • Must not have received funding or grants from the Clean Energy Investment Authority or its predecessor, the CT Clean Energy Fund
  • Projects must be in service on or after July 1, 2011
  • No larger than 100 kW
  • Must have zero emissions – this may include solar, hydro, and wind
  • Developers must have site control

The total number of applications selected will be based off of a set budget of committed funds.  The total budget between the two utilities is approximately $2.7 million, with $2.36 million attributed to CL&P and $552,310 attributed to UI.  The selection process is a first come, first serve process based on date and time of application submission.  All projects submitted in the two week window will receive the same date and time stamp.  If the total number of projects submitted in the two week window does not exceed the allotted budget, then all applications will be accepted.  If the total number of projects submitted does exceed the allotted budget, then random selection will occur.

Sol Systems will continue to track this process on our blog and will provide any updates as these contracts progress.  Should you have a project that has been awarded a ZREC contract and are in need of financing, please contact info@solmarket.com.  Our team would be happy to discuss your project with you and assess financing opportunities.

About Sol Systems

Sol Systems is a solar finance firm and a leader in financial innovation in the renewable energy industry.  Since its inception in 2008, Sol Systems has partnered with 350 solar installers and developers to bring over 3,000 solar projects from conception to completion by offering innovative financing solutions for residential, commercial, and utility-scale projects.

Sol Systems’ financing programs catalyze investments for a broad set of solar projects by simplifying their origination, diligence, and financing processes.  Developers seeking financing for solar projects can access over $2.5 billion in capital through the Sol Systems investor network.

In addition to providing financing, Sol Systems also offers project due diligence, deal structuring, and asset management services – all designed to reduce overhead and transaction costs and quicken project development timelines.

For more information, please visit www.solsystemscommpany.com.