The Act includes 4 fundamental stipulations, all of which were derived from best practices established in community renewables energy programs around the country:
The Act builds upon D.C.’s effective renewable energy policies and programs and would create explicit opportunities for those unable to install on-site renewable energy systems. Considering that all ratepayers and taxpayers help to support renewable energy programs, it is imperative that opportunities exist for everyone to benefit from the renewable energy economy. It is a matter of equity.
What is virtual net metering?
Net metering is an existing component of DC law that allows
Pepco customers to install solar panels or other renewable energy systems that
provide some or all of their electric power.
Electricity from their systems flows onto the grid when
their systems produce more power than they use, and electricity flows from the
grid to the customer whenever they need it. Customers are billed for their
“net” cost of energy used (electricity used minus electricity produced).
Virtual net metering extends net metering to several
customers sharing the electricity produced by a single system, with Pepco
metering the electricity production and “virtually” sharing it across these
customers’ accounts. Customers are also billed for their “net” cost of energy
used (electricity used minus electricity produced).
Essentially, virtual net metering is a software solution to
a hardware problem of how to share and distribute the benefits of a single
solar energy generating system to more than one Pepco customer.
Why does the District of Columbia need community solar legislation?
The District of Columbia needs community solar legislation
to expand access to renewable energy to more D.C. residents. Under current law,
a property owner installing solar panels on the roof of a building with several
apartments is allowed to direct the electricity to only a single electric
meter, benefiting only one apartment unit. Assuming that each apartment in the
building is metered separately, this prevents the other apartments from
benefiting from the solar power generated. Under the new community solar
legislation, the property owner would be able to divide the electricity
generated among several Pepco accounts.
A great article about community shared solar concepts was published in Renewable Energy World on 13 April 2012 and can be found here.
The benefits of community solar would reach a wide variety
of Pepco customers such as renters, non-profits or businesses without access to
good places to install solar panels. Such customers could also benefit from
community solar projects installed in off-site locations. For example, communities
could install solar panels on a neighborhood school, covering a parking lot, or
on the roof of a church and invite participants to invest in the system. Each
participant would receive a share of the electricity generated and receive a
credit on their monthly utility bill.
How much will this cost DC residents and businesses?
Participation in a community solar project would not cost DC
taxpayers, rate payers, or residents more than allowed by existing regulations.
However, should the DC government incorporate public-private financing options
as part of its implementation of the legislation, there is the potential for participation
in community solar to be at no cost to DC residents.
How will this legislation save DC residents money on their utility bills?
Participants in community solar projects will receive
monthly credits on their electric bills, reflecting their portion of the power
generated. There may be additional tax savings and related benefits, depending
on the financing structure of each project.
Who will benefit from community solar?
Residents, community organizations, businesses, and others
can form or join groups to invest in community solar projects on the roofs of
condominiums, apartment buildings, cooperatives, schools, recreation centers,
churches or other religious institutions, over parking lots/garages, or other
unused spaces. They can pool their resources to invest in these projects and
identify other options to finance them. A provision of the bill provides the
opportunity to create a new public/private financing system for renewable
energy projects in the District of Columbia that could be made available to
everyone, regardless of income.
Have other communities already implemented community solar arrangements?
Yes. Colorado passed similar legislation in 2007. California
and Delaware have also passed community-based renewable energy legislation. In
addition, many shared community solar projects exist throughout the U.S.
independent of community solar legislation, although they are hampered by an
unfavorable regulatory framework.
Overall, community solar is a concept that many are
embracing across the country. The District of Columbia will have an easier time
implementing community solar than most states, because we are a single
jurisdiction with a single electric utility company providing electricity to
How will this impact Pepco? What are the challenges to implementing the
Pepco will need to establish a system for monitoring the
production of each community solar project (electronic reading of production
meters) and allocating the electricity produced among the electricity accounts
of participants in the community solar project.
Other jurisdictions have allocated production through
systems as simple as a spreadsheet that is updated monthly, with data entered
manually for each subscriber account. If Pepco is implementing a billing
software upgrade in the near future, this simple function could easily be
included at a nominal cost.
Who supports community solar legislation?
DC Solar United Neighborhoods is the primary sponsor of the
legislation, in partnership with solar and renewable energy cooperatives in all
eight wards of the city, as well as the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Other groups are joining us in supporting the legislation,
including affordable housing providers, tenant groups, coop and condo
associations, religious organizations, building owners, solar installers, and
workers in related industries.