Best Practices for Community Solar and Wind Generation Projects
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC) today released its first Model Program Rules for Community Renewables. Based on best practices, the model rules are presented to facilitate co-investment in local renewable power facilities.
IREC’s new model rules consider many of the basic issues facing community renewables programs. These include: renewable system size, interconnection, eligibility for participation, allocation of the benefits flowing from participation, and net metering of system production. IREC developed the model program rules for community-scale renewable systems working closely with The Vote Solar Initiative, a California-based not-for-profit working to bring solar energy into the mainstream.
“The goal of this effort is to provide stakeholders with best practice program rules they can tailor to the individual circumstances and policy preferences of their state, without having to reinvent the wheel at each turn,” said Joseph Wiedman, author of the model rules.
Interest in community solar and wind initiatives stems from recognition that many utility customers are not able to host an on-site renewable power system, yet they would like to invest in local renewable generation. Examples include occupants of multi-tenant residential and commercial buildings, and properties not conducive to an on-site system, due to shading or structural restrictions.
“We believe community policies, if well designed, can provide the right approach to create additional opportunities for customers to support solar development,” said Jane Weissman, IREC executive director. “And there are cost benefits, as community systems can harness economies of scale.”
Wiedman, a partner with the law firm Keyes & Fox, represents IREC in state-level rulemakings on many topics essential to building sustainable markets for renewable energy, including net metering rules, interconnection standards, plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), smart grid, and community renewables.
Two key principles greatly influenced the development of the Model Program Rules, and IREC’s consideration of the various policy choices available in designing a community renewables program:
1. Participants in a community renewables program should have an experience that is as similar as possible to that of customers investing in on-site renewable energy; and
2. Community renewables programs should not undermine successful on-site renewable energy programs. Rather, they should expand options for participation.
The model rules are the product of more than a year’s work, including the release of proposed rules in April 2010, which generated significant feedback from utilities, industry participants and other stakeholders. In addition to stakeholder comments on the proposed rules, IREC engaged in detailed discussions with stakeholders and reviewed current community renewables efforts at the municipal and state levels in Massachusetts, Colorado, California, Washington and Utah.
Some highlights from the 2010 Model Program Rules for Community Renewables include:
- Using virtual net metering (VNM) to allocate benefits of participation onto a customer’s monthly electric bill;
- Allowing kWhs generated by a community renewables project be given a monetary value that can be applied to a participant’s bill;
- Valuing kWh credits received by customers who are on the same distribution circuit as the community renewables project at the participant’s full retail rate;
- Requiring utilities to include system purchase costs, operations and maintenance, necessary investment returns and other costs related to a utility-owned system in their offerings to potential participants; and
- Allowing utilities to administer a community renewables program.
The Model Rules also include definitions, general provisions and net metering provisions.