Net metering revival in Nevada brings back Vivint Solar

Nothing to see here, says Nevada. The governor signed AB 405, which reinstates net energy metering after the state had abruptly put an end to it in 2015 — a controversial decision that caused both high profile and small residential solar installers to leave the state or cutback operations. It also left customers in the lurch, who had installed a system under previous rate assumptions.

nevada solar net metering

Inside AB 405

The bill (AB 405) reinstates the Net Energy Metering mechanism, but with a discounted rate for customer-generated power that is exported to the grid. The bill is expected to bring back the rooftop solar market in Nevada, while also adding strong solar consumer protection measures and a “Bill of Rights” for solar customers that the industry strongly supports.

“Nevada is one step closer to a policy that will allow it to get back thousands of solar jobs that were lost. This bill is a compromise that doesn’t fully value the benefits of distributed solar,” says Sean Gal-lagher, SEIA’s vice president of state affairs. “It will, however, allow Nevada consumers and small busi-nesses who may have wanted to go solar, but found it uneconomic under the existing solar policies, to now proceed. The legislation also provides important consumer protections, ensuring that solar cus-tomers aren’t placed in discriminatory rate classes and giving customers 20 years of certainty when they sign up to go solar. We believe that it will be able to get solar companies back to business in Ne-vada, creating jobs and investment.”

Nevada lost more than 2,600 jobs after the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada eliminated net me-tering in late 2015. AB 405 will help bring those jobs back by spurring increased demand for solar.

In fact…

Vivint Solar returns

Vivint solar

Vivint Solar, a full-service residential solar provider, has already said it plans to re-enter the Nevada market.

“We are very pleased Nevada officials have recognized the broad public support of rooftop solar and reestablished the state’s commitment to the future of renewable energy,” said David Bywater, CEO of Vivint Solar. “This bill demonstrates the power of building consensus across stakeholders to find a win-win-win solution for the residential solar industry, utilities and Nevada consumers. We look forward to bringing jobs, consumer choice and affordable solar power back to the state of Nevada.”
Vivint Solar expects to create up to 60 jobs in Nevada in the coming months and approximately 100 total jobs once it fully resumes operations in the state.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar rate design: Details on unified approach to evolve net metering

solar rate design plan

The only agreement there seems to be on net metering and rate design is that no one can really agree on what to do. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Vote Solar have taken a big step in moving forward by developing a set of principles to help guide and unify future state-level solar rate advocacy work. Supported by a broad coalition of energy advocates across the United States, Principles for the Evolution of Net Energy Metering and Rate Design provides a consensus view for regulators and stakeholders actively involved in the compensation for distributed solar generation.

“To effectively communicate as a group, you need to sing from the same song sheet and I’m confident this set of shared principles will resonate loud and clear,” said Sean Gallagher, SEIA’s vice president of state affairs. “With these Principles we’re taking a collective, proactive approach that will ultimately allow for expanded consumer electricity choice and fair compensation for America’s families.”

This year, 40 states plus DC, have already considered changes to solar policy. This free paper was developed to guide stakeholders through current and future rate design cases, particularly where higher levels of distributed solar are driving evaluation of the costs and benefits of net energy metering (NEM), or potential NEM successor or replacement measures.

The paper is organized into four sections to guide the decision-making process:

• Basic principles, foundational to considerations for considering rate design and compensation for distributed solar generation.
• Criteria and Conditions for the Consideration of Alternatives to Net Energy Metering
• Guiding Principles for Solar Rate Design, and
• Guiding principles for Alternative Compensation

“By this time next year, more than two million households nationwide will own or lease rooftop solar,” said Rick Gilliam, Program Director of DG Regulatory Policy at Vote Solar. “Americans will continue to invest in solar to harness clean, affordable and reliable power for their own homes and businesses, which goes hand-in-hand with building a 21st-century grid that remains reliable, secure and affordable for everyone. This set of principles was designed with that in mind and should serve as a guide for all stakeholders that share that vision.”

We dive into the specifics on page 2

 

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar legislation update: Indiana kills residential solar; Florida close to tax exemptions

First, the bad news.

Indiana says goodbye to net metering

Indiana solar net metering bill

Unofficially the most-talked-about bill in the solar industry, Indiana’s SB 309 was officially passed and signed into law, just before the end of the legislative session. The bill lost some of its teeth from a total “buy all; sell all” approach, but there is enough left to really disincentivize homeowners from going solar. In short:

  • It ends net metering for new customers after 2022.
  • It ends net metering for existing customers who replace or expand their solar system after 2017.
  • It empowers utilities, with the approval of the regulatory commission, to charge rooftop solar owners an additional fee for “energy delivery costs.”

Under the new law, the utility would buy the excess power at a little more than the wholesale rate — around 4¢ per kwh.
Luckily, for the moment, Indiana might be an outlier compared to its Midwest neighbors. Here’s our deep dive into the solar market in that region.

Now some positive news.

Florida bill approved to reduce tax barriers for solar

florida solar tax exemption

The Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 90, sending the bill to Governor Rick Scott. The measure implements Amendment 4 of 2016, which Florida citizens approved with 73 percent of the vote last August. This bill makes solar and renewable energy equipment on commercial buildings exempt from property taxes for 20 years, beginning in 2018. The measure also ensures proper consumer protections are in place.

Here’s what Tom Kimbis, executive vice president for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), had to say about it:

“The Florida legislature took a historic step forward today to expand solar across the state while recognizing Floridians’ desire for more choice over their energy options. And, importantly, the bill includes strong protections and increased transparency for consumers, helping ensure they fully understand solar transactions. Consumer protection is both the right thing to do and critical to the success of the industry and we congratulate the Florida legislature for advancing these protections without creating burdensome red tape for small businesses.

“SEIA applauds the leadership of Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues and Senator Jeff Brandes in working to pass this legislation. And we urge Governor Scott to sign the bill into law to give Florida citizens the energy choices that they overwhelmingly voted in favor of last year.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Massachusetts extends Solar Renewable Energy Credit program (is net metering cap next?)

massachusetts solar

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has announced plans to extend the Commonwealth’s successful Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC 2) program until it completes a long-term replacement. Since its inception, the SREC 2 program has led Massachusetts to more than 1,600 megawatts of solar development and supported thousands of local jobs, investments and a healthier environment for Bay State families and businesses. Solar associations, businesses, non-profits and supporters praised the move to address the gap between the SREC 2 program and its successor.

Advocates also highlighted the need for state lawmakers to raise the Commonwealth’s net metering caps this session. SEIA says, as of now, there are waiting lists for net metering cap allocations in two utility service territories.

RELATED: Minnesota governor vetoes anti-solar net metering bill 

“The solar industry applauds Massachusetts Governor Baker and the Department of Energy Resources, led by Commissioner Judith Judson, for their efforts to extend the Solar Renewable Energy Credit 2 program,” said Sean Gallagher, Vice President of State Affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association. “With this extension now on the books, we are asking the Baker Administration and lawmakers to support an increase to the Commonwealth’s net metering caps. We look forward to working with the Legislature and the Governor to enact legislation raising the caps this year.”

“Solar is delivering economic and environmental benefits to Massachusetts, with tens of thousands of solar jobs, millions of dollars in energy savings and significant reductions in our air and water pollution,” said Nathan Phelps, Program Manager of Distributed Generation Regulatory Policy at Vote Solar. “The Commonwealth is on the path to a bright solar future, and we applaud the Baker Administration for seeking to avoid a bump in the trail with this extension. Whether solar remains on that path will depend on the Administration and Legislature lifting limits on net metering and creating a viable new incentive program.”

 

— Solar Builder magazine

Iowa Utilities Board accepts proposal that will cap growing net metering program

The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) recently accepted a proposed rule change from Alliant Energy, one of Iowa’s two major electric utility providers. This new ruling will drastically change how net metering works in Alliant Energy’s service territory and will reduce the financial viability of new solar installations. The new rules are scheduled to go into effect on April 1 of this year (but are no joke!). Alliant Energy services over 488,000 electrical customers across Iowa.

Iowa solar energy net metering

Solar industry insiders are surprised by the IUB’s decision. Solar is a growing industry and many of Iowa’s neighbors, Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri, have adopted pro-solar policies. Forbes recently reported that, “In the United States, more people were employed in solar power last year than in generating electricity through coal, gas and oil energy combined.”

RELATED: Solar vs. the state: Regulatory news in Utah, Maine, Maryland 

Net metering was encouraged in 2016

In 2016, the IUB asked Iowa’s utilities to develop net metering pilot projects “for the purpose of expanding renewable distributed generation (DG) in Iowa.” According to the IUB, the aim was to encourage development of more solar and wind projects. Alliant Energy’s proposal will have the opposite effect, according to solar industry experts.

Steffensmeier Welding & Manufacturing of Pilot Grove, Iowa, saves over $90,000 per year with its solar 400 kW installation. The savings have been used for more training and more jobs. Similar economic boosts for rural communities like Pilot Grove are desperately needed throughout Iowa, but now they’re off the table with the new net metering ruling.

What Alliant wants to do

Alliant Energy’s new net metering rules will add a cap on how much solar generation is eligible for net metering. Under current rules, net metering is naturally capped by a customer’s total annual energy usage – how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity are used in a year. Under the new, more complex rules, net metering will be capped based on an arbitrary percentage of a customer’s annual energy usage the year prior to the solar installation. Typical small business and residential customers will see a 65-70% reduction in net metering eligibility.

Channing Congdon, Director of Design at Ideal Energy, one of Iowa’s most senior solar firms, said that the result will be a 70% or greater reduction in solar installations for residential and light commercial customers in Alliant Energy’s Iowa service territory. “You typically only want to install what you can net meter,” he said. He went on to say that because of the reduction in system size and the fixed costs associated with each solar project, “this ruling effectively ends residential solar for Alliant.”

— Solar Builder magazine