How Green Mountain Power is transforming with customer-centric, renewable energy programs

Green Mountain Power

Green Mountain Power (GMP) in Vermont has several high-impact opportunities to build upon its customer-focused energy programs while reimagining its business model as an “energy transformation company,” delivering low-carbon, affordable, reliable energy to customers, according to a new Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) report.

Electric utilities like Green Mountain Power are confronted by new economic and operational challenges. Customers are demanding more choice over their energy use, even as overall demand is flat or declining, and as new energy-saving technologies reach more homes and businesses. State legislatures like Vermont’s are mandating new targets for renewable energy generation that require new and innovative ways to think about generating and using energy. Needed investments to modernize an aging grid require sustained capital investment in a rapidly changing operational and economic landscape.

Vermont has set a requirement that 75 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2032, including 10 percent from distributed generation, and that all utilities achieve fossil-fuel savings equivalent to 12 percent of their annual electric sales through energy transformation projects, such as replacing gas or oil heating systems with electric heat pumps, or replacing gasoline cars with electric vehicles (EVs).

RELATED: The ‘Carportunity’: How our electric vehicle future means big things for solar carports

GMP is responding through its transformation vision, offering innovative energy products and services, building new revenue sources to help keep energy rates affordable and using distributed energy resources like storage and demand-response technologies to enable customers to actively participate in generating and managing energy. RMI’s Customer-Centric Energy Transformation report provides recommendations to GMP for expanding its offerings and impact as it shifts its business model toward an energy-services company.

“GMP is partnering with customers on this new energy future, to find ways to continue to drive down costs,” said Josh Castonguay, GMP vice president of innovation. “Reports like this from RMI help push us to move faster in this innovative future, and think creatively about better ways to serve our customers. The energy transformation that is happening is exciting, and we are so proud Vermont is helping lead the way.”

“GMP’s commitment to evolve its business and operating strategy supports the needs of its customers, the goals of the state of Vermont and the health of the electric grid,” Mike Henchen, a manager at RMI and one of the lead authors of the report, said. “The company’s efforts help guide the way toward the transformation of the larger energy system to one that is more innovative for customers, and low carbon, affordable and reliable.”

New service offerings already introduced by GMP include a managed EV charging program for homeowners, as well as an automated demand flexibility program to shift the operations of water heaters, thermostats and EVs to capture less-expensive energy rates available at different times of the day.

GMP hired Rocky Mountain Institute as a consultant to assess how GMP can advance the transformation to a low-carbon, reliable, affordable energy system by building on its portfolio of innovative customer programs and its evolving business model. GMP Chief Executive Mary Powell also serves as a trustee on RMI’s board.

Here is the Customer-Centric Energy Transformation report.

— Solar Builder magazine

Duke Energy’s solar rebate program approved in North Carolina

solar system rebate

Duke Energy’s $62 million solar rebate program – which will help North Carolina customers with the upfront cost of installing solar panels on their property – was approved this month by the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). The program is part of 2017’s Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina law – also known as House Bill 589 – which includes new Duke Energy programs to benefit customers. Customers can start signing up this summer.

“The Competitive Energy Solutions law for North Carolina will encourage solar ownership for customers while we pursue a balanced and affordable energy mix for all customers,” said David Fountain, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president. “It also allows Duke Energy to secure solar energy from independent facilities at a market rate – also a benefit for customers.”

North Carolina is second in the nation for overall solar capacity. Currently, in North Carolina, Duke Energy has more than 6,000 customers who have private solar systems – with a total capacity of just over 50 megawatts. The program expects to increase North Carolina’s private solar market by 200 percent over the next five years, providing an economic boost for the state’s solar installation business as well.

RELATED: Our big takeaway from SEIA’s latest Grid Modernization report: Utilities need to step up

“Duke Energy’s North Carolina customers have never had a better opportunity to take control of their energy future with solar than with this rebate program. We’re eager to work with those customers to take advantage of the incentive,” said Jay Radcliffe, CEO of Renu Energy Solutions of Charlotte. “The federal tax credit is still in place. In nearly a decade of installing solar, now is the best time I’ve seen for customers to save.”

Rebate Details

  • Under the program, residential customers will be eligible for a rebate of 60 cents per watt for solar energy systems 10 kilowatts (kW) or less. For example, a typical rooftop array of 8 kW would be eligible for a $4,800 rebate. Installed systems 10 kW or greater would be eligible for a maximum rebate of $6,000.
  • Nonresidential customers would be eligible for 50 cents per watt. Nonprofit customers (such as churches and schools) would be eligible for an enhanced rebate of 75 cents per watt for systems 100 kW or less.
  • Installed systems 100 kW or greater would be eligible for a maximum rebate of $50,000 for nonresidential customers, or $75,000 for nonprofit customers.
  • Customers will also have a solar leasing option.

“We structured our program to give customers as much flexibility as possible to pursue renewable options,” added Fountain. “Of course, customers have to determine if solar energy fits their needs.”

Earlier this year, Duke Energy announced two other solar programs as a result of the law. The programs are awaiting approval from the NCUC.

• Shared Solar – Will allow customers to subscribe to the output of a nearby solar facility and provides an alternative for customers who do not want, or can’t have, a solar array on their property.

• Green Source Advantage – Will allow large customers to secure solar power to offset the amount of power purchased from Duke Energy. This is an expanded version of a pilot program Duke Energy Carolinas provided.

— Solar Builder magazine

Utilities scramble at last second to defeat popular solar bill in South Carolina

south carolina solar net metering

Less than a week after the South Carolina House passed House Bill 4421 (the Electric Consumer Bill of Rights Act) with bipasrtisan support, the bill stalled after utilities raised a technical point that required the House to approve the legislation by a two-thirds majority. In today’s vote, the House voted for the bill, 61-44, exceeding a simple majority but falling short of the new two-thirds requirement.

H. 4421 would have lifted a restrictive 2% cap on the state’s successful net metering program. Net metering makes sure solar customers get fair credit on their utility bills for the valuable solar power they send to the energy grid, which lowers costs for all consumers by reducing reliance on expensive utility power plants.

The Post Courier says SCANA and Duke Energy, the state’s largest power providers, “fought vociferously against the bill, arguing that it would force non-solar customers to subsidize homeowners with panels.” FYI: South Carolinians pay some of the highest utility bills in the country.

An amendment added to the measure sought to undercut that argument by forcing the utilities to eat the costs of the subsidy rather than passing it on to consumers. That would amount to about $1.2 million in additional costs for Duke Energy and $4.4 million for SCANA, according to regulatory filings. Several lawmakers on the House floor pointed out that the CEOs of each of those companies make significantly more money than that in annual total compensation.

Following is a statement from Vote Solar’s Southeast Regional Director, Thad Culley:

“After finding such strong bipartisan support from both lawmakers and voters, it’s disappointing that – with this procedural stunt – the interests of a couple monopoly utilities outweighed the people of South Carolina who overwhelmingly want support solar energy options and property rights. Make no mistake, this puts thousands of local solar jobs and real energy bill savings for consumers at risk.”

— Solar Builder magazine

South Carolina moves closer to lifting net metering cap for rooftop solar

south carolina solar net metering

A bill that will eliminate an artificial cap on net metering from rooftop solar installations, allowing for more people to have solar energy as an electricity option, is moving forward in South Carolina, passing a vote in the state House last week. South Carolina’s solar market grew significantly in 2017. The state added 396 megawatts, nearly quadrupling its total amount of solar capacity. It had the eighth fastest growth among states last year. The solar industry currently employs more than 2,800 South Carolinians.

“This is all about making sure residents have solar as an option to lower their energy bills, and we’re pleased the House answered with a resounding yes. We urge the state Senate to do what’s right for jobs and consumers, i.e. take up and pass the bill without delay. Doing so will allow South Carolina to continue its rapid solar growth, give homeowners choice, and provide affordable electricity options and jobs.”

H. 4421 contains a number of common-sense consumer protections that would expand solar opportunity in South Carolina, including lifting a restrictive 2% cap on the state’s successful net metering program. Net metering makes sure solar customers get fair credit on their utility bills for the valuable solar power they send to the energy grid, which lowers costs for all consumers by reducing reliance on expensive utility power plants. This simple crediting arrangement is one of the most important state policies for empowering families, churches, schools, and businesses to meet their own power needs with solar energy.

— Solar Builder magazine

New Jersey solar expansion takes next steps through state legislature

New Jersey Senate

Bills that will expand clean energy capacity in New Jersey continue to work their way through the legislature. N.J. Assemblyman John McKeon’s A3723 was passed in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and Senator Bob Smith’s S2314 was passed in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The companion bills will stabilize and expand New Jersey’s renewable economy and help extend the cost-saving benefits of solar to more families, communities and businesses in the state.

Vote Solar, Earthjustice, the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Sunrun applauded the legislation to grow New Jersey’s renewable development, maintain more than 7,100 solar industry jobs, and expand the benefits of clean energy to more residents. Additionally, nearly 50 solar companies and industry associations sent a letter to Governor Murphy and Senate and General Assembly leadership yesterday strongly recommending they pass and sign this legislation into law.

RELATED: RMI report shows path for a 30-GW community solar market by 2020

What will this do?

The legislation will stabilize the solar market through 2021 by increasing the solar target, closing the current solar renewable energy credit trading program in an orderly way, reducing the overall cost of the current solar Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by lowering the Solar Alternative Compliance Payment, and setting in motion a process for considering the next generation of solar incentives in the Garden State. The bill also increases the overall RPS to 50 percent by 2030, and will enable a community solar program, which will ensure that all New Jerseyans have access to solar energy. The community solar program will give consideration to residential customers, especially in multifamily buildings, and low-to-moderate income customers.

“S.2314 has the potential to expand solar access to low and moderate income residents of New Jersey and we are encouraged by the committee’s vote to advance this legislation to the floor,” said Luis Torres, Senior Legislative Representative for Earthjustice. “As the process moves forward, we will continue to work with the legislature, where possible, and the BPU, to advocate for the inclusion of strong parameters for projects authorized under this act to ensure equity and access for low and moderate income families.”

 

— Solar Builder magazine