Community Renewables Energy Act of 2013

Community Renewables Energy Act of 2013: Creating Equitable Opportunities in D.C.’s Renewable Energy Economy. 

Here is a link to the final version of the enacted legislation:  COMMUNITY RENEWABLE 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. 
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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 will be credited to their monthly electric bill.

The Act includes 4 fundamental stipulations, all of which were derived from best practices established in community renewables energy programs around the country: 
  1. Enables community renewable energy arrangements in which at least two subscribers (i.e., utility customers) may share the benefits of a community energy generating facility.
  2. Credits the benefits from a community energy generating facility directly to a customer’s monthly utility bill to offset electricity demand.
  3. Allows for-profit, non-profit or third-party entities to build, own, and operate community energy generating facilities.
  4. Creates opportunities for participation by low-income utility customers.
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?
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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 all subscribers.

How will this impact Pepco? What are the challenges to implementing the law?

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.

Legislation

The attached files contain the latest details (3 July 2013).
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Eugene Imhoff,
Jul 9, 2013, 8:11 AM
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Eugene Imhoff,
Jul 9, 2013, 8:11 AM
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Eugene Imhoff,
Oct 1, 2013, 4:38 AM
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