MD DC DE VA Solar Energy Industries Association

The District’s Community Solar Regulations: Model Legislation Improperly Implemented by the PSC

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Jul 15

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In case you haven’t noticed recently, community solar is popping up all over the U.S., and most recently has made an appearance in the District of Columbia and Maryland. While the draft regulations in Maryland are still being developed, the final regulations for DC’s Community Renewable Energy Act (CREA) were released in April. The results of the process were disappointing to local solar advocates and businesses.
The idea behind CREA began in 2012 when a group of DC Councilmembers and solar stakeholders got together to find a way to bring solar to those without access. In a city like DC, this means homeowners who have roofs shaded by taller buildings and renters who don’t own their roofs in the first place, overall an astounding 80% of residents. There was also a large emphasis placed on providing low-income households access to the benefits of solar. Similar programs in Minnesota and Colorado have been implemented with great success and if brought to the Washington area could make a huge impact.

VNM

Photo Credit: EnergySage

Once CREA was passed in 2013 and signed into law, the bill went to the Public Service Commission to have the regulations drafted, and although there was communication between the solar community and Councilmembers, it was clear that the final draft regulations were not as originally intended. In fact, in a letter from DC Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers McDuffie, Cheh, Bonds, Evans, Nadeau, Alexander, Grosso, Allen, Silverman, they stated that after reviewing the rulemaking “(they) believe that the Commission’s proposed rulemaking misinterprets the legislative intent of CREA…(and) though the Council now has several new members who did not participate in the deliberations of this measure, they too are in agreement with the Council’s then stated policy goals.”1

When a traditional solar system is installed, it’s put on your roof and produces electricity for your home; often it even produces so much electricity that you can sell it back to your utility, meaning you can get credit on your bill that will save you money each month. The only difference with community solar is that your panels are put on someone else’s roof or land alongside systems belonging to your neighbors. They’re still your solar panels (you own them) and you still get credit on your bill from excess electricity. However, in the final regulations released by the DC PSC, a significant portion of your credit rate was left out so you would receive fewer credits for community solar than traditional solar, a cut of ~30%.

Energysage Community Solar

Photo Credit: EnergySage

We’re working with the Council to fix this issue and if you’d like to get involved, we’d love your help. Join MDV-SEIA, donate to support our efforts, or contact your DC Councilmember today to tell them that you would like to expand solar access to the 80% of DC residents that can’t participate in the market.

 

Kim Palacios

Associate, MDV-SEIA

 

1. Letter from DC Councilmembers to the Commissioners of the DC Public Service Commission, http://www.dcsun.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/cdavis_3182015_1922_1_Council_Letter.pdf

 

Additional resources:

DC SUN Blog Post about CREA 2013

A Guide to Community Solar: Utility, Private, and Non-profit Project Development

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