Community Renewables Energy Act of 2013

Click here to listen to a WAMU story on how community solar works

Click here to listen to a WAMU story on how community solar works

Current status of community solar

On October 1st, 2013 the DC Council voted to enact the Community Renewables Energy Act of 2013. This bill allows renters, homeowners with shaded roofs, tenants of apartment buildings, and others, to receive the benefits of solar energy by removing some of the remaining regulatory barriers to solar.

It does so by giving utility rate payers access to virtual net-metering. Virtual net-metering permits anyone to subscribe to a solar installation. Once they have done so, the electricity produced by their portion of the solar installation is credited to their monthly electric bill.

Only 25% of residential rooftop space in the US is suitable for solar. And, 60% of DC’s households rent their homes. That’s a lot of people who can’t go solar. But, this new law allows anyone in DC to go solar. It opens the door to clean energy for a huge new group of people.

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Want to purchase or lease a share in a community solar project? Developers are just getting started putting together community solar projects, but we can let you know as projects start happening.

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Current Status of Community Solar in DC

After the law was passed in 2013, the Public Service Commission was charged with writing the regulations for how the law would be carried out in practice.

In September 2014 the PSC issued the first Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.  DC SUN and others filed comments, which you can find below.

On January 30th 2015 the PSC issued its second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR), and then an Order addressing the comments filed in the first rulemaking phase.

DC SUN and its community partners reviewed the second NOPR and were extremely concerned because the proposed rules reduce the value of the CREF Credit Rate, among other issues. The CREF Credit Rate is how subscribers would be credited for their subscription to a renewable energy facility, like a solar array. Under a regular net metering you would get a full 1:1 credit for any extra electricity you produce. This includes all the charges you see on your Pepco bill, including Generation, Transmission, Distribution, and any Taxes, Fees, and Surcharges. However, the PSC’s interpretation of CREA in its 2nd Proposed Rulemaking would only cover Generation and Transmission for a community solar site. That’s about half of what you pay on your Pepco bill (and therefore you’d only be compensated for half of the solar electricity you produce).

This is a key problem because it creates a lower class of “solar citizens” – those who own homes and can put solar on their roof, versus everyone else who rents, lives in highrise buildings, or has a shaded roof. CREA was passed in order to serve those very citizens, but the PSC’s proposed rulemaking undercuts that very purpose by reducing the value of solar to those citizens who need it most.

Our coalition filed comments on March 2nd, refuting the PSC’s interpretation of the value of solar electricity coming from a CREF. You can view these comments below in the “Intervention Documents” section, along with a letter that 10 out of 11 DC Councilmembers signed, reaffirming the intent of CREA as it was passed in 2013.

Update (4/27/15):

The PSC published a Final Order and its Notice of Final Rulemaking (NOFR). The PSC did not agree with our comments or the Council’s letter in their ruling, reaffirming their earlier proposed rulemaking that the credit rate for community solar does not include distribution.

Update (7/1/15):

DC SUN, MDV-SEIA, Vote Solar, the Sierra Club, and others asked the DC Council to support emergency legislation to fix the PSC’s troubling ruling. With emergency legislation slated to be introduced and voted upon on Tuesday June 29th, the PSC sent a letter to the Council on Monday June 28th at 5pm, expressing their concern about tax implications of the emergency legislation. As a result the Council’s Budget staffer needed some additional time to review, and so the Council decided to pull the vote from the meeting agenda.

Fortunately we don’t foresee this being an issue, as it was already discussed and addressed back when CREA was passed unanimously by the Council in 2013. DC SUN is confident in the support of the majority of DC Councilmembers, and we are working to get another vote on the emergency legislation quickly.

Update (10/21/15):

The D.C. Council’s Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on Friday, October 30th to take up the bill on emergency legislation, entitled the “Community Renewable Energy Emergency Amendment Act of 2015.” The BCRA Committee consists of 5 members, 3 of whom were among the 10 Councilmembers to introduce B21-0330.

Update (11/15/15):

The BCRA Committee did not appear convinced and indicated that they would not move forward with emergency legislation at that time. You can read testimonies of various stakeholders, as well as watch the 10/30 BCRA hearing here. We’re now determining our options for moving community solar forward.


Intervention Documents

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