Florida keeps solar momentum going, governor signs SB 90

Florida solar amendment

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 90 (SB 90), “Renewable Energy Source Devices,” into law, which extends a property tax exemption for renewable energy installations, including solar, wind, and geothermal, on both commercial and residential properties. The legislation implements the Amendment 4 ballot initiative passed by Florida voters in the statewide primary last August, with 73 percent voting for approval, well above the 60 percent needed to adopt an amendment of the state constitution. Gov. Scott’s signature follows unanimous approval of SB 90 in both chambers of the Florida legislature. The legislation goes into effect July 1, 2017.

Florida’s solar market grew by more than 200% in 2016 while solar jobs surged 25 percent, according to according to GTM Research and the SEIA’s U.S. Solar Market Insight Report. The state is the 12th largest solar market and has the fifth most solar jobs in the country.

Among renewable energy groups, there was much rejoicing:

“We thank Governor Scott for signing this bill to carry out the desire of Florida voters to see more renewable energy in the Sunshine State,” said Maria Robinson, associate director of energy policy and analysis for Advanced Energy Economy (AEE). “By signing the bill to implement Amendment 4, the Governor has removed a critical barrier to growth, allowing for more residential and commercial customers to choose advanced energy options like solar power, and spurring growth of advanced energy companies and jobs in Florida.”

“This legislation will help Florida take its rightful place as a solar star. The state’s market doubled last year and we expect this new law will help Florida become one of the top five solar states in short order,” says Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “We are particularly enthusiastic about the strong consumer protections in the legislation that provide transparency to customers and clear rules of the road for solar installers. We thank Governor Scott, Senator Brandes and Majority Leader Rodrigues for their leadership on solar and support for our industry’s growth.”

“Florida has tremendous solar resources and this legislation will only enhance investment across the state,” said Colin Meehan, Director of Regulatory and Public Affairs at First Solar, a leading global provider of advanced PV solar systems. “Utility-scale solar is increasingly competitive and this legislation will help us continue to do business in Florida bringing reliable, affordable, clean energy to Floridians.”

Net metering revival in Nevada brings back Vivint Solar, Sunrun

Background on SB 90

This legislation implements Amendment 4, which exempts tangible personal property tax on solar or other renewable energy source devices installed on commercial and industrial property. Ultimately, 80 percent of the assessed value of a renewable energy source device, which is considered tangible personal property and is installed on real property on or after January 1, 2018, will be exempt from ad valorem taxation. SB 90 reflects an extension of the existing tax abatement for solar and renewable energy devices on residential property. The tax incentives would begin in 2018 and extend for 20 years.

Although the House and Senate versions of the implementing legislation were very different at the start of session, each side was able to iron out their differences in order to finalize the legislation that was signed by the Governor. The House passed an amended version of SB 90, 119-0, on May 3. On May 4, the Senate concurred with the amended version and passed the legislation 33-0.

The Amendment 4 ballot initiative was offered in the 2016 legislative session by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), along with Representatives Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers) and Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach). It was passed by the Florida legislature in March of that year.

In 2015, advanced energy jobs in Florida, including solar energy, reached 140,000 workers, more than twice as many as in agriculture and more than in real estate, with advanced energy jobs expected to grow 4 percent this year. A report by Navigant Research for AEE valued the Florida advanced energy market at $6.2 billion in revenue in 2014.

Special Report: How to Make Money in the Midwest

— Solar Builder magazine

Minnesota Power reveals next step in its renewable energy growth strategy

Minnesota Power solar

Minnesota Power, a utility division of ALLETE, is taking the next step in its EnergyForward strategy. If approved by regulators, the resource package coupled with the company’s existing renewable resources will result in renewable resources providing 44 percent of the company’s energy supply by 2025, further reducing carbon emissions while keeping rates affordable.

In an upcoming filing with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC), Minnesota Power will request the addition of 250 megawatts of wind power capacity, an additional 10 megawatts of solar power and 250 megawatts of combined-cycle natural gas generation to meet customer demand for power, which is projected to grow throughout the region. The new resources will increase the company’s already robust wind portfolio of 620 megawatts and double its solar generation.

“For the past four years, EnergyForward has been exceeding expectations for how an energy company can transform the way it produces and delivers energy,” said Brad Oachs, president of Regulated Operations. “We look forward to working with our customers and regulators to continue down the path toward a safe, reliable, cleaner and affordable energy future.”

Special Report: How to Make Money in the Midwest

With approval of the proposed resource package by the MPUC, renewable energy resources— including wind, Canadian hydro, solar and biomass—will account for 44 percent of the utility’s energy supply portfolio, exceeding the initial EnergyForward goal of one-third renewable power. Minnesota Power’s long-term goal is an energy mix of two-thirds renewable energy and flexible, renewable-enabling natural gas and one-third environmentally compliant baseload coal.

Natural gas is an essential component of the resource package to be filed with regulators. Without this plant, Minnesota Power would be reliant on fluctuating wholesale market prices when sun and wind resources aren’t available, increasing overall costs over the long-run.

Minnesota Power will file later this summer with the MPUC requesting approval of the resource package. After filing, state regulators will open a formal review process to consider Minnesota Power’s request. After input from stakeholders and the public, a final determination is expected in the latter half of 2018.

The details of Minnesota Power’s proposal include:

• Natural gas. Minnesota Power is proposing a joint ownership structure with Dairyland Power Cooperative to build a state-of-the-art 525- to 550-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas power plant in Superior, Wisconsin. Minnesota Power would purchase approximately 50 percent of the plant’s output (250 megawatts) from an ALLETE subsidiary starting in 2025 to serve customer load, stabilizing energy supply for times when renewable energy capability is lower. The project will create an estimated 260 construction jobs and employ approximately 25 full-time workers.

• Wind. Minnesota Power conducted a robust competitive process as part of its 2015 Integrated Resource Plan. An independent, third-party evaluator reviewed the bids and recommended a 250-megawatt, 20-year purchase power agreement (PPA) with independent power producer Tenaska, to be located in southwestern Minnesota. In addition to providing the lowest overall cost among the wind farm bids, Tenaska’s Nobles 2 Power Partners wind farm will offer greater geographic diversity among Minnesota Power’s wind resources and a highly efficient wind resource. Minnesota Power has an option to purchase the wind farm after 10 years of production.

• Solar. To achieve the state’s solar requirements, the Minnesota Power package proposes to add 10 megawatts of solar power by 2020 through a 25-year PPA with Cypress Creek Renewables. The addition will complement the current 10-megawatt Camp Ripley project that was completed last year and will be placed within Minnesota Power’s distribution system near Royalton in central Minnesota. The agreement includes an option for Minnesota Power to purchase the array.

 

Minnesota Power provides electric service within a 26,000-square-mile area in Northeastern Minnesota, supporting comfort, security and quality of life for 145,000 customers, 16 municipalities and some of the largest industrial customers in the United States.

— Solar Builder magazine

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

Here was New York’s pro-renewables response after Trump pulled out of Paris Agreement

New York solar power

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord caused an immediate reaction from states leading the country’s charge into renewable energy. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order to commit New York to uphold the standards set forth in the Paris Accord and announced a U.S. Climate Alliance, along with California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay R. Inslee, to convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.

Cuomo also announced the Clean Climate Careers initiative — a multi-pronged strategy to grow New York’s emerging clean energy economy and prepare the workforce for the long-term careers associated with this industry.

“As the federal government abdicates its responsibility to address climate change — at the ex-\pense of our environment and economy — New York is leading the nation in advancing a clean energy future,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Clean Climate Careers initiative is a groundbreaking investment, representing the largest state clean energy procurement in U.S. history. With this $1.8 billion initiative, New York continues to tackle the challenges of climate change and create the high-quality, good-paying careers of tomorrow.”

Clean Climate Careers

In partnership with the ILR School’s Worker Institute at Cornell University and Climate Jobs NY, this initiative focuses on accelerating energy efficiency and renewable energy growth to make New York a magnet for new energy technologies and creating 40,000 new, good-paying clean energy jobs by 2020.

As part of the first phase of the Clean Climate Careers initiative, New York State will make an unprecedented investment of up to $1.5 billion in major renewable energy projects, including wind and solar, and significantly expand energy efficiency and so-ar installations at public buildings. The investment will result in an additional 2.5 mil-lion megawatt-hours of electricity a year, representing the largest clean energy pro-curement by a state in U.S. history.

The Clean Climate Careers initiative is a bold, three-pronged strategy that connects in-vestment in clean energy technologies with the industry’s good-paying, quality jobs:

1. Investing in Clean Tech and Supercharging Renewable Energy Development: Making record investments in renewable energy to meet Governor Cuomo’s ambitious Clean Energy Standard target of achieving 50 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030 – and as a result New York is poised to double the State’s so-lar capacity from roughly 800 megawatts today to more than 1600 megawatts by the end of 2018.

2. Creating Clean Climate Careers: Making historic investment of up to $1.5 bil-lion in major renewable energy projects will create thousands of well-paying jobs for middle class New Yorkers across the State, while providing funding to train our workforce for lifetime careers in building efficiency, renewable energy, and other low-carbon sectors.

3. Advancing Environmental Justice: Establishing an Environmental Justice & Just Transition Working Group to develop priority programs and policies to help historical underserved communities – and those navigating the retirement of carbon-intensive energy plants – prepare for a cleaner, greener future.

Solar industry funding report for Q1 2017: Was there a ‘Trump effect’?

Details of phase one of the Clean Climate Careers initiative

The state will issue requests for proposals from qualified developers to build renewable energy projects that will generate 2.5 million megawatt-hours of electricity a year – enough to power approximately 350,000 homes. Combined, the RFPs are the first in a series of major procurements and are expected to result in the development of 40 to 60 large scale renewable energy projects by 2022 under the Clean Energy Standard.

The complementary solicitations by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York Power Authority will invest up to $1.5 billion in wind, commercial solar and solar arrays, small and large-scale hydro, fuel cell and other technologies.

The NYSERDA solicitation will procure 1.5 million MWh of electricity from renewable energy sources and the NYPA solicitation will procure an additional 1 million MWh. This investment in additional large-scale clean energy supplies will expand NYPA’s leadership role as the State’s largest supplier of renewable electricity. Both the NYSERDA and NYPA solicitations will lead to the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs from development, construction and operation of clean energy projects through 2022.

The state is committed to studying the feasibility of the types of economic efficiencies that can be achieved through the use of a Project Labor Agreement for the construction of Public Work projects associated with this initiative. Use of a PLA for such Public Works could bring broad participation by NYS registered apprentice programs and can lead to new apprenticeship opportunities for a great many New Yorkers working in construction.

$300 Million Investment in Energy Efficiency and Solar To Expand BuildSmartNY and K-Solar Programs
Accelerating the Governor’s BuildSmartNY and K-Solar initiatives, NYPA will double annual in-vestments in energy efficiency and solar deployments from $150 million to $300 million to get more clean, renewable energy into our local governments, public facilities, and schools. This $300 million is a mix of NYPA’s low-cost financing and additional private sector capital.

NYPA has established a new partnership with a consortium of banks that, will for the first time ever through NYPA, enable municipalities to access low-cost capital from commercial banks to finance energy efficiency and solar projects. Many local governments that are interested in energy efficiency projects and may not have previously qualified for financing will benefit from a more streamlined process and be able to obtain more competitive lending rates.

With this expanded investment, NYPA will conduct 1,000 energy efficiency and solar audits for municipalities and school districts by 2020 to help support prudent investments. The initiative will be available to all local governments and municipalities, who will have the opportunity to sign up and enrollment will be open before the end of 2017.

NYPA will also install more than 125 megawatts of solar capacity on schools and other public buildings by 2020, achieving a 300 percent increase in distributed solar projects at public facilities statewide. Through K-Solar and BuildSmartNY, NYPA partners with solar and energy efficiency companies to provide ‘turn-key’ solutions to its government customers, meaning local governments can easily receive design, construction management, commissioning, and financing services for their projects all at once.

These accelerated energy efficiency initiatives will create more than 2,000 new direct and indirect jobs.

 

— 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