The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved final regulations to establish a community solar pilot program in the state, with an emphasis on providing renewable energy benefits for low- and moderate-income customers. The regulations are expected to be published on July 8 in the Maryland Register and will become final 10 days later.
In 2015, state legislators passed H.B.1087, which required the creation of the pilot program. PSC Chairman W. Kevin Hughes says the regulations advance lawmakers’ “desire to increase access to solar electricity for all Maryland ratepayers.”
“In addition, it will encourage private investment in Maryland’s solar industry and diversify the state’s energy resource mix to meet the state’s renewable portfolio standard and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act goals,” notes Hughes.
The PSC says the three-year community solar pilot program will do the following:
– Allow renters to contract for solar energy with the same benefits as rooftop owners;
– Set aside program capacity for each area of the state with a statewide cap of over 200 MW. About 60 MW is set aside for projects focused on low- and moderate-income customers;
– Create separate program capacity for small systems and systems built on brownfields, parking lots or industrial areas;
– Allow smaller and rural service territories to make use of existing solar facilities while encouraging construction of new systems in the urban and suburban areas of Maryland;
– Include significant consumer protections, including prohibition against unreasonable fees and clear contract disclosure requirements; and
– Allow the PSC staff to collect data necessary data and study the impact on Maryland’s electricity grid over the three-year pilot program.
The Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) has applauded the PSC for adopting the final regulations.
“CCSA is pleased to see that the commission’s final approval preserved key aspects of the draft regulations that will ensure a successful pilot program,” says Jeff Cramer, executive director of the CCSA. “Preservation of the program size and subscriber credits at a full retail rate credit will ensure a sufficiently large and economically robust pilot. Additionally, the set-aside for projects reaching low- and moderate-income participants will encourage development of projects that can benefit all of the state’s citizens.”