This legislation effectively gets rid of net-metering, making Connecticut one of the first states to do that. For commercial projects, that would come in about a year and a half. For residential customers it will be in a few years. Existing customers would be grandfathered for about 20 years.
In place of net-metering consumers would have a choice. One would be rates – known as tariffs – and formulas for applying them that would be determined by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. Some argue those unknown factors might be disruptive, if not downright stagnating for the solar industry in the state.
Along with many allies, Acadia Center has worked for months to fix this critically flawed bill, which will imperil the future of distributed solar in Connecticut,” Amy McLean Salls, Acadia Connecticut director, said in a statement. “Several improvements were made, but it is unfortunate that important progress on grid-scale renewables was paired in S.B. 9 with a severe setback on distributed solar.”
A coalition that includes the environmental groups Acadia Center, Vote Solar, Environment Connecticut, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment and Connecticut Citizen Action Group, as well as the solar companies Vivint and Sunrun, announced their opposition to the bill in a statement: “We favor smart, simple, and gradual net metering reform for rooftop solar, and not the complex and drastic reforms that exist in the present bill language,” it said in part.
Connecticut’s high-quality energy efficiency programs help many businesses save money, improve their bottom line, create new jobs that pay well, and compete locally and nationally. Last year alone, over 6,000 in-state businesses benefited from these crucial programs.
Helping businesses cut costly energy waste also helps grow Connecticut’s economy, as each $1 spent by these energy efficiency programs produces $7 in economic growth. That’s an unparalleled return on investment for the Nutmeg State.
Unfortunately, Connecticut took a major step backwards on efficiency near the end of last year. Under extreme fiscal pressure, the General Assembly diverted $127 million in ratepayer funding for efficiency, possibly sacrificing a long-term economic boost of approximately $889 million.
Connecticut now risks falling behind nearly all other states in New England, as most states in the region have achieved more ambitious energy savings targets or are on track to do so by 2019. Connecticut also risks leaving its businesses without good efficiency solutions, making its economic recovery even harder.
The decision to raid energy efficiency funds leaves many businesses in Connecticut concerned.
One such business is Watson Inc, a food manufacturer based in West Haven that employs 300 Connecticut residents. Three years ago, a group of Watson employees volunteered to be on an energy efficiency and sustainability team. With help from the energy efficiency programs, the team developed and executed a plan that led to a 20% reduction in electricity and gas usage.
They also replaced all lighting with LEDs, installed a new properly-sized air compressor, removed many inefficient dust collection systems, and replaced 20 out of 30 air conditioning units with more efficient models. After completing a steam trap survey, they replaced or repaired many components in the high-pressure steam and boiler system. These improvements helped save the company money while reducing its demand on the energy grid.
Another business, Trifecta Ecosystems, Inc., a start-up aquaponic technology and indoor farming company based in Meriden, recently weighed in with the legislature as well. The company described how Connecticut’s efficiency programs helped it immediately capture significant energy savings in a new facility, gain a competitive edge in their new and growing industry, and even hire another full-time employee.
Examples of business support for efficiency abound. Last year, for instance, a number of Connecticut-based companies signed a letter asking the legislature not to divert funds from energy efficiency, as did a national coalition with numerous Connecticut members. More recently Unilever, which has a large facility in Trumbull, shared the following quote to weigh in on the value of investing fully in energy efficiency:
“Unilever believes that energy efficiency is key to keeping businesses like ours thriving. Connecticut will benefit from funding the state’s energy efficiency programs,” said Mark Bescher, Manager of Federal Government Relations and External Affairs at Unilever.
Ball in the legislative court
Legislators and policymakers should consider the repercussions of energy efficiency losses on Connecticut’s business community, as well as its consumers, economy, and environment. These self-inflicted harms include lost jobs, lower economic growth, higher utility bills for ratepayers of all kinds, increased local air pollution, and reduced access to energy efficiency for low-income households.
The good news is that this damage can still be averted if the efficiency fund raid is undone during the current legislative session, which ends on May 9th. Acadia Center will make every effort to restore these vital funds and give our state—and its business community—a chance to achieve a clean and prosperous future.
HARTFORD, CT – On April 18, 2018, the Connecticut Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) announced its decision to lower the customer charge for Eversource residential customers from $19.25 to below $9.50. This 50% reduction follows the requirements of a 2015 law enacted by the Connecticut General Assembly to limit residential customer charges, the fixed fee that customers pay regardless of the amount of energy used. Acadia Center first raised this issue in Connecticut in Eversource’s previous 2014 rate case, and, since 2015, has participated in two rate cases and a generic proceeding to ensure the proper implementation of the law.
“Connecticut has taken an important step today towards a clean and consumer-friendly energy system,” said Daniel Sosland, President of Acadia Center. “The Office of Consumer Counsel, Attorney General’s Office, and the Connecticut General Assembly have made major progress in bringing relief to Connecticut’s electric customers, and Acadia Center looks forward to working with these partners as the state moves forward with further reforms to the energy system.”
Customer charges for residential electric customers typically range from $5 to $10 a month, but in some states are significantly higher. High customer charges disproportionately burden seniors and low-income customers, who typically use less electricity than average. They also reduce the incentive for customers to lower their electricity bills through conservation, investment in energy efficiency, or renewable energy technologies like solar power. Before the implementation of the new law, Connecticut’s residential customer charges for its two major utilities were $19 per month and $19.25 per month respectively.
Bill Dornbos, Acadia Center’s Advocacy Director, said, “Consumers everywhere prefer choice and control, and this lower monthly fixed charge will give customers substantially more control over their electric bills. The new rate design will also help promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, more closely aligning Connecticut’s electricity rates with its energy policy goals.”
“By enacting this significant reduction, Connecticut brings the state’s residential customer charges down to levels that are comparable with national best practices and recognizes that high fixed charges run counter to consumer interests and a clean energy future,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney for Acadia Center. “This is a significant step at a time when states around the country, including neighboring New York, are debating how to move forward on this important issue.”
“It’s definitely got a long way to go,” Reed said of the legislation. She said one of her prime goals for revising the bill is to make sure it “continues the current net metering we now have” for rooftop solar power.
That issue is one of the most controversial parts of the existing bill. The legislation would revise the way residential customers with solar power in their homes are now compensated for the power they produce. Critics claim the change would result in higher costs for homeowners and stall Connecticut’s solar power installation industry.
“Ending net metering would end a customer’s right to consume their own solar power, and would hamper the development of a clean, modern, efficient electric grid,” Emily Lewis, a policy analyst for the activist group Acadia Center, said.
Read the full article from the Hartford Courant here.
The CES and original legislation did away with net metering, replacing it with a “buy-all/credit-all” concept. Essentially a solar owner would have to sell all his or her power to the grid at a rate to be set by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) and buy back what he or she needed at the retail rate.
Such a system would mean higher fees for solar owners and would probably make it impossible to install battery storage or home-based smart energy systems that would help reduce energy demands and integrate with more modern grid concepts.
“Forcing people to go that direction is going be counter-productive in the long run and would undermine grid modernization,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney for the advocacy group Acadia Center.
On July 7, 2016, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed into law several bills that will help advance the deployment of renewable energy resources. These bills are welcome developments that signal the state’s commitment to the growth of renewable energy and a clean energy economy, and lay the groundwork for expanding community energy projects and advancing solar and other distributed energy resources through incentive programs and good rate design. Key provisions in each of the bills are summarized in this post.
H-7413A/S-2185A — This bill extends the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) from 2019 to 2035 and ramps up National Grid’s renewable energy obligation from 14.5% to 38.5% over that period. Significantly, by extending the RES, Rhode Island policymakers place the state in a leadership position and reaffirm its long-term commitment to advancing the deployment of renewable resources. The new law also requires the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to review the adequacy of renewable resources every 5 years beginning in 2019 and allows the PUC to delay all or part of the implementation requirement until it determines that resources are available to meet the legislative requirement.
H-8354A/S-2450B — This bill makes a number of changes that affect distributed energy resource development in Rhode Island. Distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar photovoltaics, are a new and growing part of our energy system. These local, clean energy resources will help diversify the energy portfolio, create in-state economic opportunities, and reduce pollution and associated health risks.
The bill extends the Renewable Energy Fund from 2017 to 2022, providing grants to reduce the up-front cost of renewable energy projects for residents and businesses in Rhode Island.
It also expands virtual net metering, which allows multiple customers to share power from a single renewable energy system that is not physically connected to their meter(s). Previously, only public, multi-municipal, and farm projects were allowed to virtual net meter. Under the new law, residential customers and qualified low and moderate income housing developments are eligible for “Community Remote Net Metering.” Output from these community projects are credited at the full retail rate (net of the RES charge) up to the sum of average usage, and excess credits are valued at the standard offer service charge. The Community Remote Net Metering program is currently capped at 30 MW as of December 31, 2018, but the PUC has the authority to extend the program.
The bill creates an opportunity to promote small- and medium-scale shared solar facilities and larger (>250 kW) community remote distributed generation systems through the Renewable Energy Growth (REG) program — a performance-based incentive program. The bill allows the Distributed Generation Board to propose to the PUC to allocate annual MW goals under the REG program to community remote distributed generation systems. These projects may also receive a higher incentive rate of up to 15% more than the ceiling price for a comparable non-community project. The bill also allows the utility to propose rules and tariffs for shared solar facilities.
It clarifies that third party ownership and third party financing arrangements for eligible net metering systems and community remote net metering projects as well as projects enrolled in the REG program are allowed. This is significant because it allows companies that lease solar systems to operate in the state. In response to the passage of the law, SolarCity said that it anticipated expanding from 20 employees in Rhode Island to somewhere between 75 and 200.
Furthermore, renewable energy resources used in residential systems or employed by a manufacturer are exempt from property tax. This means that, for example, a homeowner would not be penalized for installing a solar PV array through higher property taxes resulting from their property’s increased value.
H-8180/S-2174 — This bill amends the “Rhode Island Regulatory Reform Act” to establish a state-wide solar permitting process. A consistent and streamlined permitting process can help improve the cost effectiveness and timeliness of the interconnection process for renewable resources. In this case, the Office of Regulatory Reform will be advised by a task force comprised of the Commissioner of the Office of Energy Resources, at least five municipal representatives, and a representative from a clean energy regional business association. No later than December 31, 2016, the Office of Regulatory Reform will submit a report with recommendations for a permitting process for small residential and small commercial roof-top solar projects. The Office of Energy Resources is then required to propose legislation to establish the state-wide solar permitting process no later than January 31, 2017.
H-7890/S-2328 — This bill expands the role of the Governor’s workforce board to include in the state career pathways system, a workforce training program(s) that would fill skill gaps and create employment opportunities in the clean energy sector.