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10.28.15 Weekly Solar Media Update

October 28, 2015

By Clara Schopf, Incentive Coordinator, SoCore Energy

Power Customers May Soon Choose to Buy Just Solar

  • Rocky Mountain Power announced Friday that the Utah Public Service Commission has approved a pilot program that allows customers to sign up to receive some or all of their electricity from solar power.
  • The utility is in final negotiations with a developer to build a 20-megawatt solar farm, which is scheduled to be completed and operational by late 2016.
  • Participating customers will be able to subscribe in 200- kilowatt hour blocks up to their total usage. The facility will provide a total of 20,000 blocks.
    • If demand exceeds the initial production estimates, then another phase could be developed.
  • Residential customers will receive a “locked-in” generation rate of 7.7 cents per kilowatt hour, plus about 4 cents for transmission and distribution, totaling 11.7 cents per kilowatt hour.
  • When the program comes online, it will be available on a first- come, first-served basis where residential, commercial and industrial customers would have to make a three-year participation commitment.

Aggressive Rooftop Solar Proposal Clears Key Legal Hurdle

  • The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday approved a ballot initiative that would deregulate a growing sector of the electricity industry in that state.
  • The proposed ballot initiative by Floridians for Solar Choice — an unusual grass-roots coalition of Tea Party and Christian Coalition conservatives, Libertarians, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and others — would allow rooftop solar owners to sell power directly to other consumers under virtually any circumstance (currently, only utilities can sell power directly to consumers in Florida).
  • If successful, the initiative would surpass even the rooftop solar regulations in California, the nation’s leader by far in electricity generated from the sun.
  • Utilities nationwide, in particular in California, are grappling with the impact the growing rooftop solar industry is having on their business model, one that has relied on centralized power rather than homeowners and businesses generating their own electricity.
  • The coalition still must collect 683,149 verified signatures on petitions by Feb. 1, 2016, to get the initiative onto the 2016 ballot.

California’s New Demand Response Future Begins Today

  • The deadline has passed for aggregators in California to submit bids to the state’s investor-owned utilities under new demand response market rules.
  • The Demand Response Auction Mechanism (DRAM) will allow a wide range of resources, from customer battery storage to electric vehicles, to bid into wholesale markets for demand management.
    • For the first time, aggregations of customer-sited resources of at least 100 kW will have access to the state’s electricity markets.
  • While the state has set a minimum DRAM target of just 22 MW between the three largest utilities, the initial proposals will likely far exceed that number as a wide range of new players and established companies attempt to get involved.

Hawaii PUC Chair Defends Landmark Decision to End Retail Rate Net Metering

  • Hawaii Public Utilities Commission Chair Randy Iwase defended the PUC’s controversial decision to terminate net energy metering last week.
    • The commission’s new plan is expected to cause significant disruption to the state’s solar industry.
  • Regulators found that retail rate net metering, along with Hawaii’s high retail electricity prices and low installed solar costs, had led to unprecedented distributed energy resource.
    • They ruled the retail rate credit for electricity sent to the state’s grid was no longer needed to drive growth.
  • Iwase said the NEM program needed to be terminated and could have reasonably been ended sooner.
  • The Alliance for Solar Choice, representing national solar installers, filed a lawsuit challenging the PUC decision and requesting an injunction to prevent the NEM termination.

In Other News…

SunEdison has struck an IP licensing deal with Solaria to enable the company to produce a low-cost, high-efficiency PV module with 400W output peak. See article here

The Arizona Corporation Commission has opened a generic docket to consider both the costs and benefits of rooftop solar, which will need to be completed before changes are made to fee structures in the state. See article here

Green Mountain Power in Vermont expects to reach the net energy metering cap of 15% of peak load by early 2016, after which it would not be able to provide credits to new owners of distributed generation for power they send back to the grid. See article here

West Virginia led a 23-state, two agency coalition of opponents to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan in filing a “Petition to Review and Stay motion” in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. See article here

According to GTM Research’s PVMAX report, the United States is one of the most attractive places to expand PV module production. See article here

On Monday, SunPower launched Helix, a fully integrated commercial solar solution that combines solar power production and energy management covering roof, carport and ground installations. See article here

Gov. Cuomo has committed up to $750 million to a large solar panel factory in Buffalo operated by SolarCity, the biggest economic development effort he has undertaken in his five years as governor of New York. See article here

Yuri Horwitz, CEO of Sol Systems writes on “Why We Support the ITC Extension and Why You Should Too”. See article here.

US Clean Power Plan opponents say it will make building fossil fuel plants ‘virtually impossible’. See article here

New From BNEF

Scrapping Fossil-Fuel Subsidies Seen Cutting CO2 11% in 5 Years: Scrapping subsidies for fossil fuels in 20 nations would cut national carbon-dioxide emissions by an average of 11 percent within five years, researchers said Thursday.

SunPower Said to Borrow $250 Million for California Solar Farm: SunPower Corp., the second-biggest U.S. solar manufacturer, arranged as much as $250 million in debt to build a 102-megawatt power plant in central California, according to two people familiar with the deal.

NRG Said to Seek Debt to Build Southern California Power Plant: NRG Energy Inc., the biggest U.S. independent power producer, is seeking to borrow money for a natural gas-fired power plant in southern California, according to two people familiar with the deal.

Southern Co. and Turner Acquire California Solar Project: Southern Co., the third-biggest U.S. utility owner, acquired a 15-megawatt solar farm in central California, extending its clean-energy partnership with Turner Renewable Energy LLC.

Rand Paul Launches First Attempt to Undermine Paris Climate Deal: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has lodged the first concrete effort in Congress to thwart U.S. involvement in any international climate change agreement reached later this year in Paris.

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