Though legislators were involved in an emergency session just a floor below and could not attend, many business owners and concerned citizens turned out for the Acadia Center’s Forum on the Future of Solar Energy on January 22nd at Connecticut’s state capitol.
The panel consisted of Claire Coleman (Connecticut Fund for the Environment), Erica Dahl (Vivint Solar), Jamie Dickerson (Northeast Clean Energy Council), Sean Garren (Vote Solar), Ellen Hawes (Acadia Center), and Noel Lafayette (SHR Energy Management). The subject of the forum: SB 9, Public Act No. 18-50—a bill passed that concerns Connecticut’s energy future.
Upon first glance, SB 9 looks to be a great push toward majority renewable energy in Connecticut. However, when you get to section 7B:
On or before September 1, 2018, the authority shall initiate a proceeding to establish tariffs that provide for twenty-year terms of service described in subdivision (3) of this subsection for each electric distribution company pursuant to subparagraphs (A) and (B) of subdivision (2) of this subsection. In such proceeding, the authority shall establish the period of time that will be used for calculating the net amount of energy produced by a facility and not consumed, provided the authority shall assess whether to incorporate time-of-use rates or other dynamic pricing and such period of time shall be either (i) in real time, (ii) in one day, or (iii) in any fraction of a day not to Substitute Senate Bill No. 9 Public Act No. 18-50 18 of 54 exceed one day. The rate for such tariffs shall be established by the solicitation pursuant to subdivision (2) of this subsection.
What do this bill and section 7(b) in particular mean for the solar energy industry in Connecticut?
The end of net metering is tied to the end of the RSIP. At the current run rates, the RSIP will run out mid- to late-2019, and the end date is an ever-moving target. The loss of the RSIP, net metering, and the federal Investment Tax Credit stepdown beginning in 2020 are major challenges for the solar industry to overcome in such a short window.
Current solar customers are grandfathered into net metering until December 2039, but the future of solar in CT is uncertain. Tell your friends and family to act now if they are considering going solar!
Multiple states have dismantled net metering and have taken similar approaches to what the bill calls for.
Utah, for example, adopted 15-minute netting at the end of 2017, and residential solar deployment is down 70% of what it was under net metering.
Nevada, which eliminated net metering completely, saw massive job loss almost overnight.
Maine attempted the implementation of a “buy-all, sell-all” approach, which has proven unsuccessful. This measure is likely to be overturned by the legislature this year.
Compared to current compensation, the new tariffs will likely provide 20-50% less value to homeowners in Connecticut. This will ultimately lead to less solar deployment in the state and, in turn, massive job loss.
TPO (third-party ownership) arrangements account for the vast majority of residential solar systems in Connecticut.
TPO models are the primary way for low-to-moderate income families to have access to solar—these models do not require large cash payments or loans and provide immediate utility bill savings. The loss of these arrangements would, without a doubt, drastically reduce residential solar deployments and jobs in the state.
Connecticut’s solar industry is made up of 200 companies, 2,200 jobs, and $1.5 billion in investment. If this bill stands as-is, our state could see the loss of a major industry. With many corporations already leaving the state, isn’t this something we should strive to avoid? Not to mention, doesn’t this go against our goal of reaching at least 40% clean energy by 2030?
“If you want people to do something, make it easy,” said Noel Lafayette of SHR Energy Management. “It’s hard to build an industry when the rules are being rewritten every two years. Connecticut is talking in circles while other states are experiencing an economic boom.”
The proposed plan to protect Connecticut’s solar economy consists of four main points of action:
Now, more than ever, we need to show up for the future of our state’s solar industry. Policy matters, both for the solar industry and for the planet. “This is not a choice between a strong economy and a strong environment,” said Claire Coleman at this year’s Environmental Summit. “We don’t have to choose—in fact, they’re intertwined.”
With the future of solar so unclear, we urge those interested in going solar to act now. Tell your friends and family to book a free solar assessment with us today!