Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia took some form of action on distributed solar policy and rate design changes during 2016, according to the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center’s (NCCETC) latest edition of its “50 States of Solar” report.
The report says a total of 212 state- and utility-level distributed solar policy and rate changes were proposed, pending or enacted last year. NCCETC says this represents an increase in solar policy activity over 2015, when 46 states plus D.C. took approximately 175 actions.
In its report, NCCETC also ranks what it considers the top 10 most active states in 2016 for solar policy developments, as follows:
1. Arizona, where a value of distributed generation proceeding took center stage and the state’s three investor-owned utilities proposed major changes to net metering, residential demand charges, and increased fixed charges.
2. Nevada, where a debate ensued and was eventually resolved over grandfathering in existing net metering customers.
3. Maine, where a net metering successor bill was vetoed and the work toward a new policy was undertaken at the Public Utilities Commission.
4. New York, where the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision proceeding continued and led to the noteworthy “LMP + D” valuation methodology for distributed energy resources.
5. California, where a net metering successor tariff was adopted early in the year.
6. Massachusetts, where a compromise bill increased the state’s aggregate cap on net metering and made other changes to the state’s solar policy.
7. Florida, where a contentious ballot initiative would have prohibited cross-subsidization due to net metering.
8. Hawaii, where the state’s utilities hit their caps on the new grid-supply option, leaving customer self-supply as the remaining option.
9. New Hampshire, where the Public Utilities Commission initiated the development of a net metering successor tariff following legislation enacted earlier in the year.
10. Colorado, where Xcel Energy’s proposed grid-use charge was dropped in a settlement agreement in favor of time-of-use rates.
“Overall, we saw an increase in solar policy action from 2015 to 2016,” says Autumn Proudlove, lead author of the report and senior policy analyst at NCCETC. “Notably, states considered more specific changes to net metering policies in 2016 and undertook fewer studies related to net metering. Many of these states have already conducted studies by now and are ready to take action.”
Specifically, the report found the following:
– 71 utility requests in 35 states plus D.C. to increase monthly fixed charges on all residential customers by at least 10% were pending or decided;
– 28 states considered or enacted changes to net metering policies;
– 16 states plus D.C. formally examined or resolved to examine some element of the value of distributed generation or the costs and benefits of net metering;
– 13 states took policy action on community solar;
– 16 utility requests in 10 states to add new or increase existing charges specific to rooftop solar customers were pending or decided;
– eight states had policy action on third-party solar ownership laws or regulations; and
– five states had action on utility-owned rooftop solar policies or programs.
According to the report, half as many residential demand charges were proposed in 2016 as in 2015, while requests to increase residential fixed charges rose over last year. No public utilities commission approved a mandatory residential demand charge in 2016, and 79% of requests to increase fixed charges were either not approved or partially approved.
“2016 was a very busy year for policymakers and those of us tasked with staying on top of their activity,” comments Brian Lips, energy policy project coordinator at NCCETC. “With several state solar markets hanging in the balance, 2017 is looking like it will be another exciting year.”
In the fourth quarter of 2016, 42 states and D.C. took some type of action on distributed solar policy or rate design. A total of 131 actions were tracked in the fourth quarter, making it the busiest quarter of the year. NCCETC says it expects this high level of state and utility action on solar policy and rate design to continue into 2017.
More information on the report is available here.
Chart courtesy of NCCETC