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.
Illinois – At long last, we have an estimated start due for the Land of Lincoln’s rooftop, community solar, and distributed generation programs, also known as the Adjustable Block Program (ABP). The ABP, first envisioned with the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016, will go live on January 15, 2019.
With the date set in stone, customers now have a firm deadline for bringing their projects to the finish line and attempt entrance into the lucrative first block. The ABP is structured so that early adopters get the highest incentive rate, so for customers on the fence about pursuing solar in Illinois, time is money.
While a launch date is confirmed, still up in the air is the fate of participation by municipalities in the ABP, which is being appealed by ComEd. The utility filed an appeal of the ICC’s final plan order which had allowed projects located in municipal utilities or co-ops to participate in the Adjustable Block Program. The result of ComEd’s appeal will be critical for prospective municipal customers.
In legislative news, on August 10, the Illinois legislature passed critical property tax legislation. This bill, SB 486, provides a standardized approach for valuing solar property, instead of leaving it up to each county assessor to provide valuation. Given how critical property taxes are in emerging markets, Illinois joins a select few states who will benefit greatly from passing proactive legislation to clear up any issues in this area before the market takes off. Governor Rauner signed the bill on August 14.
2019 will signal both a new year and a new age for Illinois renewables. Are you ready?
New Jersey – When it comes to clean energy, and solar specifically, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) certainly has a lot on their plate over the next few months, and maybe even years. With the passing of A-3273 by the legislature, the horse has left the gate and the BPU has begun racing to meet key regulatory deadlines set out within the legislation.
Under this bill the BPU is now responsible for strategizing how to close the existing solar renewable energy credit (SREC) program while simultaneously developing a successor program that will go into effect after the current 5.1 solar percent carve-out is projected to be reached in 2021.
On August 6, the BPU took the first step in the rulemaking by sharing a proposal detailing how to close the SREC program. As proposed, no new registrations may be submitted once that goal is hit, and the closing date is set for no later than June 1, 2021.
Within this timeline, the BPU has 24 months from the signing of the bill in May to develop a proposal for the current SREC program’s replacement. The closing of the SREC market is only the appetizer for what is on the BPUs plate when it comes to clean energy. Over the next year and change, the BPU will have to design a community solar pilot program, organize studies on energy savings targets and distribution systems, along with other ongoing rulemakings regarding wind and storage technologies. This dedication is why New Jersey solar energy ranks fifth in the country and employs over 7,000 residents. We wish the BPU the best of luck with these proceedings, and encourage solar stakeholders to get involved in seeing these policies through to implementation.
Connecticut – In May, the Connecticut state legislature passed the hotly contested SB9, a bill that the solar industry was both for and against due to mixed policies within the legislation itself. The legislation calls for an increase to the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 40 percent by 2030 and even follows in the footsteps of other northeastern neighbors in adopting a community solar program. It also extended the low emission renewable energy credit (LREC) and zero emission renewable energy credit (ZREC) programs for an additional year. While this year was supposed to be the seventh and final year, there will now be a procurement for an eighth. By September 1, 2018, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), with help from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), must initiate a proceeding for a new procurement program aimed at encouraging the continued strides towards renewable expansion in the state after the existing program ends.
However, this same legislation that outlined these provisions also essentially removed net metering guarantees, one of the key drivers of development. This mix of good and bad news has left some uncertain about future development opportunities in Connecticut. Implementation will be key, and advocates must ensure that the new program will fill the gap left by net metering.
- Hot dam! The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power released a $3 billion plan to essentially make the Hoover dam function as a massive battery for wind and solar. The plan involves building a pipeline from wind and solar projects to a pump station south of the dam on the Colorado River that would pump water to Lake Mead to be stored and turned into electricity by the dam. The project has many obstacles to overcome but represents one of the more creative ideas to store renewable energy to date.
- After the last 4 or 5 years, the solar industry needs to crack the code on figuring out another way to say that we’ve “cracked the code” for the commercial and industrial market. Oh wait, did we say that too? (see paragraph 5).
- In a recent study by GTM Research (now Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables) aimed at finding an eventual price floor for solar bids, the firm, “in an optical view,” sees $14.7/MWh as the floor for projects, which they expect could be reached by 2022. We’ve already seen low bids for 2023 projects that will replace two decommissioned coal plants in Colorado, with a median price of $28/MWh. Whether this aggressive prediction will come to pass is unknown, but the idea of $14/MWh solar is certainly a thought to behold.
- Billionaires are waging war of words over a Nevada ballot, Question 3, that is proposing a state constitutional amendment to allow consumers to pick their own power provider by 2023. The ballot initiative, backed by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, is facing harsh opposition by Warren Buffett-backed utility NV Energy, who has threatened to cease operations and leave the state if the proposal becomes law. Given the costs associated with the consequences that NV Energy is threatening, many clean energy groups are uncharacteristically arguing against voting for consumer choice, as it would hurt the progress they’ve made thus far with NV Energy. As would be expected in a battle where both sides are backed by billionaires, $14 million combined has already been spent on the fight.
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