Click here to read the The Sol SOURCE Q2 2019.
The Sol SOURCE is a quarterly journal that our team distributes to our network of clients and solar stakeholders. Our newsletter contains trends and observations gained through quarterly interviews with our team, and it incorporates news from a variety of industry resources.
Maine – As the first half of 2019 comes to a close, Washington, D.C., Washington, Nevada, and New Mexico joined over a half-dozen other states and over 120 cities by passing legislation that targets 100 percent clean or renewable energy generation. Each of these states, with bipartisan support, is setting aggressive goals to help combat climate change as well as fostering the jobs and economic growth that accompany the clean energy economy. Maine is the most recent state to join the journey to 100 percent renewable energy.
At the helm was the newly elected Governor Mills, alongside a supportive Maine state legislature. Maine’s previous administration stymied potential for renewable growth, but within the first six months of the new administration, three key pro-climate, pro-renewable energy bills were signed into law. LD 1494 set an overarching goal of 100 percent renewable energy for retail electricity sales by 2050, laying out the schedules for the new Class IA standard. The two additional bills that passed pair well with LD 1494. Those bills increase distributive generation procurements and set targets to reduce 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. With this new administration, Maine is back in the business of clean energy.
Illinois – While several states passed 100 percent clean or renewable energy standards this year, Illinois is still working toward its own 100 percent goal. During this legislative session, renewable stakeholders sought to build off of the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) from 2016, with the introduction of the Path to 100 bill. Path to 100 increases the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 40 percent by 2030, setting a path towards 100 percent renewable energy generation.
Stakeholders in support of the bill tout growth numbers post-FEJA’s passage, which has supported a solar energy boom of over 1,300 jobs in 2018 alone. Primarily, proponents want the legislature to understand that if Illinois is committed to meeting its current 25 percent goal or a potential 100 percent goal, they must commit the necessary capital. Path to 100 is not only meant to set a 100 percent renewable goal, but also provides funding to wind and solar to meet existing benchmarks.
If current goals are not met, Illinois will be unable to support additional wind and solar projects by 2020 due to a lack of funding. The Path to 100 failed to pass before the end of session, but stakeholders are working to educate and engage legislators about the importance of renewable energy with the hopes the bill will pass as soon as is next possible.
South Carolina – In May, the South Carolina Energy Freedom Act (H3659), a bi-partisan compromise bill between clean energy advocates, the solar industry, and utility companies unanimously passed out of the South Carolina Senate after unanimously passing the House earlier in the spring. The original bill sponsors in both chambers were Republicans, with Democratic co-sponsors.
Signed into law by Governor McMaster on May 16, the new law lifts the state’s 2 percent net metering cap, allows megawatts of queued PURPA projects to be placed into service, and integrates other pro-solar provisions that make the legislation a model for Southern states going forward.
The final bill included elements that were carefully negotiated between parties, ultimately garnering broad support from advocates and industry. Importantly, for rooftop solar customers, the new law effectively eliminates the net metering cap for all ratepayers and locks in retail-rate net metering until 2021. When the existing net metering program ends in two years, the state Public Service Commission (PSC) will become responsible for determining future rates for solar customers. Stakeholders will have an opportunity to be heard in that process via a public docket.
There are also substantial changes for large scale PURPA projects. The law will enable some queued solar projects to secure 10-year contracts with utilities at PSC-approved avoided costs rates. Going forward, the PSC will be responsible for determining methods for calculating payments to solar developers that are “commercially reasonable” and compliant with PURPA. It also establishes a new process for interconnecting large-scale solar projects to the grid, which includes PSC enforcement and conflict resolution.
The legislation also increases competition in the energy sector by increasing scrutiny of new utility power generation proposals, launches a renewables program for commercial and industrial energy customers, creates new consumer protections for solar customers, and establishes the framework for a community solar program.
- Ohio’s House bill (HB) 6, which provides funding to two of the state’s nuclear plants, still threatens the state’s renewable portfolio standard. However, the bill’s current Senate version is preferable to previous iterations. The most recent version does preserve the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) mechanism, although it decreases from 12.5% to 8.5% with a cliff in 2026. Previous versions repealed the RPS altogether. Negotiations are still ongoing as several members of the General Assembly are in favor of disbanding the RPS, so the outcome and impact on renewable energy remains to be seen.
- We wrote extensively about the potential benefits of bifacial solar modules in last SOURCE. Last month, the case grew stronger for near-term use of the technology when bifacial modules were unexpectedly granted exemption from the section 201 tariffs imposed on solar in January of 2018. Demand is expected to continue to skyrocket for the technology, likely outpacing supply in the near-term.
- The 2020 primaries for the democratic party ramped up with the first debate in late June, and with it, clean energy policy is reentering the forefront of presidential political discourse. Although the crowded field made for a short discussion on the topic, candidates like Senator Elizabeth Warren noted the “$23 trillion market coming for green products” as her and other candidates renewed their commitment to a transition away from fossil fuels.
- In late April, Facebook took a big step towards its commitment to powering 100% of its business with renewables in a 350 MW deal with Dominion Power in Virginia and North Carolina, the second such large deal between the two entities. Corporations continue to push for more sustainable grids from major utilities, especially in regulated markets.
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