Momentum for development of community solar programs is growing nationwide, with programs in nearly 20 states including hundreds of local utilities, according to the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA).
To help drive continued growth in 2018, CCSA has released new model state legislation for community solar and an updated Policy Decision Matrix to guide policymakers in designing community solar programs tailored to their states. CCSA, a national coalition of businesses and nonprofits, has also announced the hiring of a new full-time policy director and partnered with advocacy group Vote Solar to host the first-ever Community Solar Boot Camp earlier this week.
“Community solar is one of the most promising sectors of the national clean energy industry, but we need consistent policies and regulations to ensure the industry can grow at the pace needed to meet consumer demand nationwide,” explains CCSA Executive Director Jeff Cramer. “These new policy resources, alongside the growing coalition of businesses, non-profits, community groups, and customers working to expand access to solar, offer policymakers a clear roadmap to developing successful community solar programs in their states.”
The new model legislation is presented in two versions: one for competitive electricity markets and one for vertically integrated utility markets. Based on CCSA’s Core Principles, the model legislation represents proven successful and sensible community solar policy based on lessons learned from states across the country, according to the coalition.
Similarly, CCSA says updates in its latest Policy Decision Matrix include lessons learned from market developments from the past year, as well as more detailed program design recommendations in key areas such as program size, compensation, customer participation, and low- to moderate-income participation.
Both the model legislation and updated copy of the matrix can be found on the CCSA Resources page here.
CCSA’s newly hired policy director is Brandon Smithwood. He starts his new role in January and will transition to CCSA from the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), where he has served as director of California state affairs, managing legislative and regulatory activity in the state. Before joining SEIA in 2015, Smithwood worked for CERES, the Conservation Services Group and the California Energy Efficiency Industry Council. At CCSA, Smithwood will lead CCSA’s policy activities in opening, protecting, and serving markets for community solar across the country.
Hannah Muller, CCSA board chair, comments, “CCSA’s growth over the past year is a testament to the immense interest in community solar and the hard work of our member companies and staff to make community solar available to all Americans. We’re excited to expand our team and open more new markets in 2018.”
Earlier this week in Philadelphia, CCSA also joined Vote Solar and a number of national and regional solar advocates for an inaugural Community Solar Boot Camp. The event brought together industry, nonprofits, and advocates who are or will soon be engaged in legislative and regulatory community solar efforts across the region.
Presenters at the event shared perspectives on how community solar can help consumers – including renters, homeowners, schools, businesses, and local governments looking to reduce their electric bills – and optimal program designs to jump-start community solar growth in new states. CCSA says it will support Vote Solar’s ongoing efforts to conduct these events in other regions of the country as interest in community solar from local communities and states continues to grow nationwide.
“We believe that every American family and business should be able to go solar and save, whether those panels are on their own roof or around the corner,” says Marta Tomic, community solar program director for Vote Solar. “Community solar is ready to deliver on that promise for renters and millions of other energy consumers, and that’s why we are working with local advocates and policymakers to advance community solar legislation in at least eight states. CCSA’s new guide provides a roadmap of good policy design so that solar can shine for everyone in all 50 states.”
Project photo courtesy of Clean Energy Collective, a Colorado-based community solar developer and CCSA member