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12.16.15 Solar Media Update

December 16, 2015

By Clara Schopf, Incentive Coordinator, SoCore Energy

Can the New York C&I Megawatt Block Solar Program Be Fixed?

  • New York is a top-five state market for commercial and industrial solar energy, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the state’s C&I Megawatt Block program.
    • The program, run by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, has never really gotten off the ground after launching in early 2015.
  • The goals of the first block of the commercial program have not been met, while the residential program, by contrast, has been a success.
  • The lack of uptake can be attributed to a number of factors.
    • One of the critical reasons is that the incentives are, in part, based on the final auction of the previous commercial solar program, when there were different rules for remote net metering.
    • Sol Systems believes the incentives would likely need to be doubled for the first block to about $0.80 per watt (if incentives were that much higher, NYSERDA says that the program could run out of funds in about two years).
    • The commercial projects receive 25 percent upfront and that same portion for the next three years, a structure that developers should be able to work with, but which becomes less than ideal given that the economic incentives are misaligned.
  • Even so, the pipeline of commercial projects completed under the previous program in New York still makes it a leader for commercial solar.

SolarCity Admits Funding Outside Group Targeting Arizona Utility Regulators

  • SolarCity, the leading U.S. residential solar installer, has confirmed it contributed to the Checks and Balances Project, an advocacy group that has questioned relationships between regulators and utilities in Arizona.
    • SolarCity worked against efforts by the same utilities in regulatory proceedings on net energy metering (NEM).
  • Efforts by Checks and Balances and others led to allegations of improper communications between members of the regulatory body and the companies they regulate, including utilities in the state.
    • None of the allegations have yet led to any action against Arizona Corporation Commissioners Susan Bitter Smith, Bob Stump, Tom Forese, and Doug Little.
  • Arizona Public Service (APS), the state’s dominant electricity provider, has also acknowledged funding an outside political group.
    • The utility in 2013 contributed to the organization 60-Plus, which campaigned against NEM during a regulatory proceeding that year. Critics say APS also contributed to outside groups that spent funds to support the ACC campaigns of Forese and Little.

Sunrun Files Lawsuit against Nevada Governor to Get Text Messages with NV Energy

  • Sunrun, the third biggest U.S. rooftop solar installer, filed suit this week against Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (R), seeking text messages between him and lobbyists for utility NV Energy about the state’s net energy metering (NEM) policy debate.
  • The suit is intended, accord to a Sunrun spokesperson, to expose communications between the Governor’s office and lobbyists Pete Ernaut, Greg Ferraro, Lorne Malkiewich, and Tony Sanchez during the time when solar advocates were lobbying Nevada lawmakers for an extension of the NEM cap opposed by NV Energy.
  • The Governor’s office has turned over 131 pages of emails and everything “in our possession and control,” a spokesperson said, but text messages on personal phones are not part of the public record. Sunrun argues they are public because they pertain to public matters.

Lessons from the First Year of Xcel Energy’s Community Solar Program

  • It’s been one year since Xcel Energy launched its community solar program in Minnesota, receiving hundreds of proposals for solar gardens in the first week.
  • With more than 1,500 applications currently in the system, only one small 40-kilowatt community solar garden is in operation – enough to supply electricity for about five to seven households.
  • Xcel Energy believes their Minnesota community solar garden program will approve projects totaling “north of 250 megawatts” by the end of next year.
  • The next step for community solar comes in April, when the Public Utilities Commission will invite public comments on proposed changes for future community solar garden project applications.
  • Customers and solar developers alike agree that Minnesota’s 11-year-old distributed generation interconnection standards are outdated.
    • Inadequate interconnection standards increase transaction costs and waste resources for solar projects that stall out when interconnection approval is required.
  • A healthy solar industry needs consistent rules that will lead to sustainable development in 2017 and beyond.

In Other News…

Maryland lawmakers want to boost the state’s renewable energy targets to 25% by 2020, and plan to introduce a bill next year that will accelerate both the level and speed of the transition to a lower-carbon future. See article here

Leading module manufacturer Trina Solar looks set to go private following a buyout proposal from its chairman and chief executive, Jifan Gao. See article here

Facing a possible bankruptcy, the Spanish renewable-energy behemoth Abengoa has filed for preliminary creditor protection and, according to news reports, is winding down construction projects worldwide. See article here

Duke Energy plans to build one of North Carolina’s largest solar farms near Monroe and a second one in Davie County. See article here

El Paso’s City Council has unanimously rejected Texas-based El Paso Electric’s proposal to increase rates, monthly charges and create a new solar customer class. See article here

A group of industrial energy users that includes the University of New Mexico and Intel Corp. want state regulators to reconsider a Public Service Co. of New Mexico rate decision they say will unfairly hit them with $1.5 million in charges for fuel savings. See article here

Energy storage is no longer an emerging technology, Audrey Fogarty, VP of product management for energy storage integrator Younicos, said on Dec. 8. See article here

In 2016, Virginia’s solar industry could grow more than 1,000 percent compared with 2015 – a 750 percent increase over all the solar ever deployed in the state. See article here

New From BNEF

Sungevity Raises $650 Million to Expand Rooftop Solar Business

Sungevity Inc. raised $650 million from investors including General Electric Co. to expand its operations and build more rooftop solar systems.

AES to Get Batteries from LG Chem in Energy Storage Push

AES Corp., the world’s largest owner of battery power systems, said LG Chem Ltd. will supply lithium-ion batteries as part of an expansion of its large-scale energy storage business.

SolarCity May Sell $185m Solar-Loan Asset-Backed Security

If it occurs, such a deal would be the inaugural securitization of a portfolio of SolarCity’s MyPower solar Loans.

SunEdison Cuts Price for Vivint Solar Deal After Shares Plunge

SunEdison Inc., the worst-performing solar company this year, is revising the terms of its much-criticized deal to acquire Vivint Solar Inc., reducing the initial $2.2 billion price by at least 25 percent.

U.S. Solar Heads for Record as Installations Reach 1.4 Gigawatts

The U.S. solar industry is on pace for a record year after adding 1.4 gigawatts of capacity in the third quarter.


*Article descriptions and summaries in this update consist of direct quotes from the referenced articles.

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