Click here to read the full August edition of the Sol SOURCE.
The Sol SOURCE is a renewables journal that our team distributes to our network of clients and solar stakeholders. Our newsletter contains trends and observations gained through interviews with our team, incorporating news from a variety of industry resources.
California – Property tax exclusion likely extended to 2026
On August 23, 2022, SB 1340, a bill to extend the property tax exclusion for solar to 2026, went to the Governor. California has seen several reversals of long-planned energy policy decisions this year, including efforts to keep its last nuclear plant open while shelving (for now) plans to recalculate net-energy metering (“NEM”). The California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) recently issued a proposed decision that would delay a NEM 3.0 program to August 27, 2023.
On August 25, 2022, the California Air Resources Board will vote on regulation that will ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035. The measure is expected to pass.
Delaware and New Jersey – Third Circuit Court rules on Delaware and Hoboken climate lawsuits
On August 17, 2022, the Third Circuit Court agreed that lawsuits brought by the State of Delaware and the City of Hoboken, New Jersey, against oil companies belong in state courts. This is the latest in series of cases fossil fuel companies have sought to hear in federal courts, which are presumed more hostile to states’ efforts to hold major fossil emitters accountable for climate change. Four other appellate courts that have already rejected these efforts, but oil companies have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the issue.
District of Columbia – RPS increase legislation introduced
Before leaving for recess, Councilmember Cheh introduced the Local Solar Expansion Amendment Act of 2022, which would maintain the Solar Alternative Compliance Payment (“SACP”) at $500/MWh and raise the solar carve-out from 10 percent to 15 percent by 2041 (DC already requires 100 percent renewables by 2032). The bill will be heard on October 3, 2022.
As a reminder, effective April 1, 2022, all new systems must have a revenue-grade production meter or inverter-based production measurement equipment. Older systems may continue to use estimation.
Mayor Bowser signed two pieces of legislation into law on August 1, 2022:
- The Clean Energy DC Building Code Act requires that all new buildings be net-zero by 2026 and energy produced onsite must be from renewable sources.
- The Climate Commitment Act requires that the District achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. To ensure that the target is met, the law sets five-year greenhouse gas targets. In addition, the law mandates fossil fuel-powered space or water heating appliances may not be installed in government buildings after January 1, 2025. Starting in 2026, the DC government may only purchase zero-emissions vehicles.
There remains no official word on nominees for the DC Public Service Commission vacancy.
Illinois – Illinois Power Agency submits final plan to the Illinois Commerce Commission
Illinois continues working to implement myriad regulatory requirements stemming from last year’s landmark Clean Energy and Jobs Act (“CEJA”). After revising the Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan (“LTRRPP”) based on stakeholder feedback, the Illinois Power Agency submitted its final plan to the Illinois Commerce Commission (“ICC”) on March 21, 2022. The ICC issued its final order on the LTRRPP on July 14, 2022 which serves as a guidebook for CEJA’s implementation and application. Shortly after, the IPA filed their compliance plan containing REC pricing for Block 6, which is set to open on September 1, 2022. Additional details on the LTRRPP along with the full REC model and prices can be found in this IPA announcement. The IPA is also expected to circulate an updated guidebook prior to the opening of Block 6.
The ICC also approved two additional procurement events to be held this fall and next summer for RECs from utility-scale wind, utility-scale solar, and brownfield site photovoltaic projects. The fall procurement is expected to be posted on October 7, 2022 with bids due by December 9, 2022.
Maine – Governor’s Energy Office reconvenes DG Stakeholder Group
Maine continues to work to incent a wider variety of clean electricity options in the state while wrestling with their role in the national transmission system. The Governor’s Energy Office has reconvened the distributed generation stakeholder group now that Maine’s legislative session has ended. We expect a straw proposal later this fall to contain more successor program design details in advance of a final report due January 2023. Litigation continues over the fate of the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission project, which was the subject of a ballot measure approved by state voters in November. The NECEC project would carry electricity from Canadian hydropower to the New England grid.
Massachusetts – Omnibus climate legislation signed into law
The Baker Administration continues to push forward several energy-related items in its last year. On April 15, 2022, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (“MassDEP”) published proposed amendments to the Clean Energy Standard (“CES”). The proposed amendments include setting the CES alternative compliance payment (“ACP”) and Clean Energy Standard-Existing (“CES-E”) ACP to $35/MWh and $10/MWh respectively for years 2022 through 2050. Comments were due on June 3, 2022, and we expect a final decision in the coming months.
On August 11, 2022, Governor Baker signed omnibus energy legislation into law (HB 5060). Among other things, the law maintains an offshore wind procurement target of 5,600 MW by 2027 and creates an offshore wind tax credit. The law also addresses grid modernization and directs the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) to study a variety of energy storage programs. Furthermore, it requires that DOER include a pollinator-friendly solar incentive in the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (“SMART”) program or successor program, bans biomass from qualifying for the RPS after January 1, 2022, as an eligible RPS Class I or II technology, and mandates that all new vehicle sales in the state be zero-emission beginning in 2035.
New Jersey – Senator Smith introduces RPS revision bill
The Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”) continues to broadly deny extensions for projects unlikely to meet Transition Renewable Energy Credit (“TREC”) deadlines while smoothing the process of moving projects from the TREC to the Administratively Determined Incentive (“ADI”) successor program. On April 26, 2022, BPU issued a Straw Proposal for the Competitive Solar Incentive (“CSI”). While there have been delays, the CSI program is expected to launch later this year. The BPU is also expected to review ADI incentive levels as part of the one-year review. Legislation related to interconnection (S431), energy storage incentives (S2185), remote net metering (S2848), and the legacy SREC program (S439) moved through the Senate and are expected to be heard in the Assembly this fall.
Senator Smith (D-17) recently introduced S2978, which would revise the RPS in New Jersey. Specifically, the bill would apply the Class I standard to electricity sold in the State after subtracting electricity generated by existing nuclear and other zero-carbon sources. In addition, the bill would also require that at least 50 percent of RECs used to comply with the RPS be located in New Jersey. Finally, it would mandate that 100 percent of retail electricity delivered to New Jersey be from Class I sources by 2045 and would remove the Class II requirement in 2045. The bill has been referred to Senate Environment and Energy Committee, where we expect a hearing this fall.
New York – New York Power Authority opposes Assembly’s Build Public Renewables Act
On July 28, 2022, the New York Power Authority (“NYPA”) announced that they did not support the Build Public Renewables Act that passed through the Senate (S6453) on June 1, 2022. The Assembly companion bill (A1466) did not move forward prior to the end of session. The bill would have directed NYPA to build and own new renewables and require the Authority to largely shut down fossil fuel plants by 2030. New York State has a goal to reach 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030.
Ohio – Public Siting Board proposes procedure revisions
On June 16, 2022, the Ohio Public Siting Board proposed procedure revisions, including one that would require solar setbacks of 150 feet from roads and unaffiliated properties and 300 feet from unaffiliated residences. Other proposals include public disclosure requirements for new facilities, codifying decommissioning requirements included in SB 52, and fencing requirements for solar sites. Comments were due August 12, 2022.
Pennsylvania – Court-issued injunction delays Pennsylvania participation in RGGI
After several showdowns between Governor Wolf (D) and the Republican-controlled Legislature, including a last-minute stay on publication, regulations establishing Pennsylvania’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI”) were published April 23, 2022. However, on July 8, 2022 the Commonwealth Court issued an injunction, further delaying Pennsylvania’s participation. The injunction required plaintiffs to post a $100 million bond, subject to forfeit if they lose the underlying challenge to RGGI.
Virginia – A Stakeholder Consultation Regulatory Advisory Panel (RAP) was recently convened to make recommendations to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) and the legislature regarding implementation of HB206, which modifies the Permit By Rule process for solar projects under 150 MW. Topics covered across the five RAP working groups include avoidance & mitigation, mitigation/in lieu, significant adverse impact for projects less than 10 acres, and local control.
In March 2022, DEQ announced that it would define solar panels as impervious surface areas. On April 14, 2022, DEQ released additional guidance that pushed implementation out to January 1, 2025, for all projects that have not received interconnection approval. In July, DEQ released two additional stormwater guidance documents focused on stormwater management and erosion and sediment control. Comments are due August 31, 2022.
The 2022 Virginia Energy Plan process has officially kicked off (as directed by the Virginia General Assembly, every four years the Virginia Department of Energy develops a comprehensive Virginia Energy Plan). The 2022 Energy Plan will provide energy policy recommendations around environmental goals, energy costs, consumer choice, and innovation.
On April 14, 2022, the Virginia State Corporation Commission (“SCC”) opened a docket to establish a self-certification process for small distributed generation systems seeking to qualify as low-income projects and consider additional GATS-related questions. On July 26, 2022, the SCC issued an order for additional comments in the docket. Staff are required to file comments by September 22, 2022. All other stakeholders may submit comments until October 20, 2022. One issue the industry has raised is the September 2021 Order requiring revenue-grade meters for all projects regardless of size or interconnection date.
- The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced that renewables will make up 22 percent of electricity generation in the United States in 2022 This number is expected to rise to 24 percent in 2023 as renewables continues to carve out a larger portion of the total American electricity grid.
- Solar continues to show its strength in creating American manufacturing jobs, as the famed Pittsburgh Bethlehem Steel Plant has now been reopened to manufacture solar tracking systems. The factory, commissioned by Nextracker, is the third they’ve commissioned with a steel manufacturing partner this year.
- Electric vehicles reached a critical adoption benchmark in the United States in June, as five percent of new car sales were fully electric. Financial analysts see reaching five percent as the breakout from the early-adopters phase, where the technology begins to become more mainstream and adoption begins rapidly accelerating. As adoption continues, car manufacturers begin a more rapid shift in supply, and through an accelerated learning curve and economies of scale, prices can fall quickly. We expect the incentives in the IRA will ensure this growth happens in North America, further growing domestic clean energy manufacturing capabilities.
- Registrations opened for the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2023 Solar Decathlon Design Challenge, where college students across the world compete to design sustainable buildings powered by renewable energy. Sol Systems has multiple Decathlon alumni, with Robertson’s having taken second place in in the inaugural competition for the University of Virginia.
- Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), the public utility responsible for electricity in and around Omaha, Nebraska, voted unanimously to delay the closure of its coal plant by three years, the sixth such delay to occur in 2022 alone. OPPD’s reasoning mirrors similar decisions recently that citied tariffs and other supply chain constraints as well as interconnection delays in delaying closure of coal plants in favor of clean electricity like solar. These decisions will have myriad environmental and public health implications for local communities as well as globally.
- SEIA recently released a Manufacturing Roadmap, laying a path for the U.S. manufacturing industry to thrive in the wake of the the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) investments in reshoring and growing domestic manufacturing. SEIA shows how the U.S. can exceed 50 GW of domestic solar manufacturing capacity by 2030. A key element of this is the development of a well-trained workforce that brings new entrants into the clean energy space and helps current energy workers transition.