Forty-five states and the District of Columbia took some form of action on distributed solar policy and rate design changes during 2017, according to the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center’s (NCCETC) latest edition of its “50 States of Solar” report. The study also ranks the top 10 most active states of the year.
Specifically, the report finds the following occurred in 2017:
- 84 utility requests in 35 states plus D.C. to increase monthly fixed charges or minimum bills on all residential customers by at least 10% were pending or decided;
- 31 states plus D.C. considered or enacted changes to distributed generation compensation policies;
- 21 states plus D.C. formally examined or resolved to examine some element of the value of distributed generation or the costs and benefits of net energy metering (NEM);
- 21 states took policy action on community solar;
- 19 utility requests in 10 states to add new or increase existing charges specific to rooftop solar customers were pending or decided;
- eight states had policy action on third-party solar ownership laws or regulations; and
- six states had action on utility-owned rooftop solar policies or programs.
2017 Policy Action on Net Metering, Rate Design, and Solar Ownership
Chart courtesy of the NCCETC
According to the report, action on community solar policies and residential fixed charges continued to climb in 2017, while NEM discussions spread to new states.
Forty-four utility requests to increase residential fixed charges were decided in 2017, with 86% receiving either a portion of the requested increase or no increase at all. Only six utilities were granted their full requested increases, the report notes. Of those utilities receiving a partial increase, the average was 26% of the utility’s original request.
“There has been a steady increase in activity across the country since we started tracking this information in 2015,” observes Brian Lips, senior policy project manager at NCCETC. “As the solar industry continues to grow and mature, we are seeing historic levels of activity with state policymakers working hard to adapt existing regulatory frameworks to new paradigms.”
According to the report, a total of 249 state- and utility-level distributed solar policy and rate changes were proposed, pending, or decided in 2017. This represents an increase in activity over both 2016 (212 actions) and 2015 (175 actions.)
In addition, the report also ranks what the NCCETC considers the top 10 most active states in 2017 for solar policy developments, as follows:
- Nevada, where the state legislature restored retail-rate NEM and regulators ordered a decrease in Nevada Power’s residential fixed charge;
- North Carolina, where comprehensive solar policy legislation initiated NEM reforms and a distributed generation (DG) cost-benefit study, adopted a community solar policy, and authorized solar leasing;
- New York, where a value of distributed energy resources tariff was approved, with working groups continuing to work on the tariff;
- Hawaii, where a new smart export tariff was adopted, community solar rules were approved, and all three investor-owned utilities had pending fixed-charge increases;
- Maine, where a NEM successor tariff was adopted, while legislation calling for changes to the tariff and a study was vetoed;
- Arizona, where proceedings to determine DG rate design and excess generation credit rates were under way and a settlement for Arizona Public Service was approved;
- New Hampshire, where a NEM successor decision was issued, a value of distributed energy resources study was initiated, and two rate cases were decided;
- Virginia, where the state legislature enacted NEM changes, a community solar pilot program, and a third-party PPA pilot program;
- Michigan, where a NEM study and successor tariff proceeding were under way, in addition to several utility requests to increase residential fixed charges; and
- Utah, where regulators issued a NEM successor tariff decision and initiated a new proceeding to determine a more permanent export credit rate.
“While 2017 was marked by greater uncertainty than usual at the federal level, state-level action continued to increase, with major solar policy reforms under consideration in a growing number of states,” says Autumn Proudlove, lead author of the report and manager of policy research at NCCETC. “We expect this trend to continue as part of a broader shift in the country’s energy system.”
In the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2017, 42 states and D.C. took some type of action on distributed solar policy or rate design. A total of 141 actions were tracked in Q4.
More information about the report is available here.
This article was originally featured on solarindustrymag.com.