Tennessee denies request to lift cap on solar system size in GPP program

tenneseia solar system program

More like ‘NO Sun’ Studio, amirite?

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has decided against making a widely supported improvement to its small scale solar energy program, Green Power Providers (GPP). TVA’s GPP program allows homeowners, businesses, municipalities, and other property owners to invest, install and safely interconnect solar energy systems to the grid and be compensated by TVA for the clean electricity they generate at the same electricity rate that the customer pays for power.

Since 2012, TVA has capped participation in the GPP program and reduced the amount it is willing to pay for power supplied by GPP subscribers. Over the years, these changes have resulted in less consumer and private industry demand for the once-popular program.

TenneSEIA’s request for raised limits

Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association (TenneSEIA) represents over 35 member organizations including solar installers, project developers, and manufacturers across the Valley. In response to the decline in program participation, TenneSEIA filed a formal written request to TVA asking it to consider an increase to the size limit for systems applying for the GPP program from 50 kilowatts to 200 kilowatts. The intent of this proposal is to realize greater participation in the program without any increase to the program’s overall budget that was approved by the TVA Board in 2016.

TenneSEIA says the request would have no impact on TVA’s budget, but would allow for larger system sizes under the program’s existing 10 MW cap. TenneSEIA based this recommendation on customer feedback that revealed larger system sizes provide greater benefit to small businesses interested in clean energy solutions.

On June 30, TVA informed TenneSEIA of its decision not to allow larger systems in the 2017 program. TenneSEIA President Matt Beasley says TVA’s decision is disappointing: “We worked in good faith to collaborate with TVA staff with the goal of introducing tangible program improvements. Despite our reasonable proposal, TVA has elected to reject industry stakeholder recommendations that we based on the realities of the marketplace. We are concerned that this decision indicates a genuine lack of commitment by TVA to its own program.”


Industry stakeholders say increasing the system size limit would address the market more effectively given the program’s application slowdown over the last year and a half, as well as the lack of a viable option for businesses who want to install a system in the 50-200kW range. They also say it would have no impact on TVA’s budget since TVA caps the solar program at 10MW for the year.

Energy regulation news round up: Massachusetts, Montana, Rhode Island and Idaho

“TVA has not seen its Green Power Providers program fully subscribed since 2015,” says Johnson. “If it truly wants a more successful program, with no increase to the program’s budget, then allowing larger systems within the existing capacity should have been an easy choice that benefits everyone,” says Johnson. “The fact that TVA rejected this reasonable proposal has to question how committed TVA is to offering this program for its customers.”

TenneSEIA representatives say that TVA’s increasingly restrictive stance toward the small scale solar industry is perplexing, given the enormous growth solar is seeing in the rest of the country and around the world.

— Solar Builder magazine

Energy regulation news round up: Massachusetts, Montana, Rhode Island and Idaho

distributed generation

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and the Department of Energy Resources updated the final regulations in the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program, which was mostly met with praise from the solar industry. Specifically, DOER eliminated the hard cap on adders, increased the competitive procurement ceiling price and made positive changes related to environmentally responsible siting of solar projects.

But there are some quibbles still. From SEIA:

“We are concerned about the shift away from the use of a clearing price to set base solar compensation rates and we continue to have concerns about auction mechanics. In addition, concerns with the small and residential solar program remain. We look forward to continuing to work together to improve the SMART program during its implementation and at the Department of Public Utilities.”

In Montana, the Public Service Commission opened a proceeding in response to HB 219, signed into law in May 2017, requiring NorthWestern Energy (NWE) to study the costs and benefits of distributed generation by April 2018. On August 9, 2017, the Commission ordered NWE to file a study in their next general rate case and established a list of the costs and benefits to be examined. The Commission will evaluate NWE’s study and make findings regarding whether customer-generators should be classified separately from other customers for rate design purposes.

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Commission findings must relate to the utility system benefits of net metering and the costs of serving customer-generators. Consistent with its findings, the Commission is authorized to establish new ser-vice classifications and sub-classifications for customer-generators, establish rates for customer-generators, or establish a net billing approach whereby a customer-generator’s energy production is metered separately from the customer’s energy consumption and the value of energy production off-sets the price of the energy consumption in the billing process.

Rhode Island’s commission is opening an investigation into modernizing its grid and rate structure as the result of a changing distribution system. This investigation did not make any specific changes to rates, but will help the commission understand the costs and benefits caused by different activities on the distribution system for use in future proceedings.

Idaho Power filed a petition to close their net metering tariff for new residential and small general ser-vice customers beginning January 1, 2018 (grandfathering customers on their existing rates), to adopt two separate rate classes for distributed generation customers, and to require new DG customers to install smart inverters. In addition, Idaho Power asked the Commission to open a new docket after the conclusion of this case to adopt a new DER compensation structure that more accurately reflects both the benefits and costs that DER provides.

— Solar Builder magazine

Nevada City becomes 41st U.S. city to establish 100 percent renewable energy goal

nevada city solar commitment

Surrounded by city council members, key members of the community and partners, Mayor Duane Strawser announced that Nevada City, Calif., would became the latest in a growing movement of mountain communities to commit to move to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. The city’s near unanimous vote to ensure that the city’s electricity will come entirely from renewable sources by 2030 and that all energy sources would be renewable by 2050.

Nevada City is now the 41st city in the country to establish a 100 percent renewable energy goal and comes on the heels of similar pledges from South Lake Tahoe, California and Park City, Utah, showing that mountain communities are taking control of their energy future.

“Nevada City’s commitment for 100% renewable energy is driven by our community.” said Mayor Duane Strawser. “The passion for the natural environment and our responsibility to take care of it is part of the fabric of what makes Nevada City a very special place to live. I challenge other communities across the nation to join us in this goal.”

Nevada City’s resolution is grounded in a burning reality as the growing impacts of climate change threaten this mountain community. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record globally have occurred since the beginning of this century, and 2017 is predicted to be the second warmest on record.

Nevada City has an existing Energy Action Plan (EAP) with a goal of a 28 percent reduction in electricity use by 2020. The resolution will lead the way toward updating the EAP to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Chicago steps up: City buildings to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2025

“The South Yuba River Citizen’s League is thrilled that Nevada City is joining other communities committing to 100% renewable energy”, said Caleb Dardick. “We are proud that Nevada City supports our Wild and Scenic Film Festival that has brought activists and concerned citizens to learn about the latest efforts to protect the environment. Nevada City’s environmental leadership is a model for the type of municipal advocacy that is needed nationwide.”

“The Sierra Nevada Alliance (SNA) is proud to work with cities like Nevada City,” said Jenny Hatch, SNA’s Executive Director. “Nevada City recognizes the many impacts on the local economy and environment that climate change will bring. At Sierra Nevada Alliance, we bring together the passion to fight climate change with the passion to protect our mountain communities to make an unstoppable force for change. That’s why it is no surprise that mountain cities are leading the way on renewable electricity.”

”I am proud to be part of the community of Nevada City,” said Paul Jorgensen owner of The Magic Carpet. “I look forward to helping others commit to and attain a transition to 100% clean energy. Our future depends on it. Nevada City’s success gives a blueprint to other mountain towns, cities, states and countries across the globe to be a part of the climate change solution.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Bipartisan group of lawmakers urge ITC to oppose solar tariffs

solar tariffs

A bipartisan group of 16 senators and 53 members of the House of Representatives sent open letters to U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) Chairman Rhonda Schmidtlein urging the ITC to reject a petition that would slap tariffs on imported solar panels and cells.

“Solar companies in our states believe the requested trade protection would double the price of solar panels,” the Senate letter to the ITC said. “Increasing costs will stop solar growth dead in its tracks, threatening tens of thousands of American workers in the solar industry and jeopardizing billions of dollars in investment in communities across the country.”

The ITC is evaluating a petition that Chinese-owned solar company, Suniva, filed with the agency in April shortly after declaring bankruptcy. It was later joined by German-owned SolarWorld, also in bankruptcy. The agency is considering whether these two companies out of more than 8,000 across the U.S. solar industry deserve tariff relief that would impact the entire market.

The letters come just days before the ITC holds its first public hearing on the petition on Aug. 15. Hundreds of solar workers from all over the country, including California, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Virginia, will converge in Washington to explain the personal impact this case could have on their livelihoods.

The American solar industry is growing 17 times faster than the rest of the economy, and created 1 out of every 50 new jobs in the U.S. last year. Implementing trade barriers would double solar prices, grinding growth to a halt and forcing 88,000 Americans — one-third of the U.S. solar workforce today — to lose their jobs just next year.

SEIA submits prehearing brief on Suniva petition to ITC — read the summary here

Lawmakers who led the letter effort to the ITC include: Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Representatives Mark Sanford (R-SC), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Pat Meehan (R-PA) and Matt Cartwright (D-PA).

“This letter shows that trade tariffs are not a red or blue state issue,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “If these barriers are implemented, one of the fastest growing U.S. industries will be halted in its tracks, thousands of Americans will lose their jobs and billions of dollars of private investment will dry up.”

“We are thankful these lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol, recognize the solar industry’s massive impact on their states’ economies, and the irreparable harm this case could bring to families and businesses across our country,” Hopper said.

— Solar Builder magazine

Appeals court eases pathway for utility-scale solar development in North Carolina

north carolina solar

In a unanimous decision issued June 6, 2017, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held that the application for issuance of a conditional use permit (CUP) by Innovative Solar 55 LLC to construct a solar farm was wrongfully denied by the Robeson County Board of County Commissioners.

This is only the second North Carolina appellate opinion addressing CUP applications for utility-scale solar development. The decision makes it more difficult for opponents to successfully oppose a CUP permit application without substantial evidence to support such opposition.

“This decision will have important consequences for both the solar industry and land use law in general,” said Tarrant. “We understand and appreciate the difficult job municipal boards have in considering land use decisions. But the Court of Appeals has reaffirmed that such decisions must be based on material, competent evidence, not just vague, unsubstantiated allegations of harm. We are pleased that this opinion recognizes the state’s public policy favoring renewable energy and will allow IS 55 to move forward with this project.”

In 2015, the Robeson County Board of County Commissioners denied a CUP application submitted by IS 55 in a 5-1 vote, even though IS 55 presented evidence satisfying the conditions for CUP issuance and the opponents presented no meaningful evidence to the contrary. Smith Moore Leatherwood, on behalf of IS 55, appealed the decision to the Superior Court of Robeson County, and ultimately to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals issued the unanimous decision in June 2017 which directs the Robeson County Board of County Commissioners to issue the CUP permit to IS 55.

SEIA submits prehearing brief on Suniva petition to ITC — read the summary here


— Solar Builder magazine