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Center says 47 states, District of Columbia took solar policy action in 2016

A new report from the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center finds that 47 states and the District of Columbia took some type of solar policy action during 2016.

The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center on Jan. 31 released its 2016 annual review and fourth quarter update edition of its "50 States of Solar" report.

The quarterly series provides insights on state regulatory and legislative discussions and actions on distributed solar policy, with a focus on net metering, distributed solar valuation, community solar, residential fixed charges, residential demand and solar charges, third-party ownership, and utility-led rooftop solar programs.

With respect to actions taken in 2016, the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center said that 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.

In addition, 28 states considered or enacted changes to net metering policies. According to the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, 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.

Meanwhile, 13 states took policy action on community solar and 16 utility requests in 10 states to add new or increase existing charges specific to rooftop solar customers were pending or decided.

The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center said that eight states saw policy action on third-party solar ownership laws or regulations and five states had action on utility-owned rooftop solar policies or programs.

"Overall, we saw an increase in solar policy action from 2015 to 2016," said Autumn Proudlove, lead author of the report and senior policy analyst at the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, in a news release.

"Notably, states considered more specific changes to net metering policies in 2016 and undertook fewer studies related to net metering," she said. "Many of these states have already conducted studies by now and are ready to take action."

Demand charges

The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center said that 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.

A total of 212 state and utility-level distributed solar policy and rate changes were proposed, pending, or enacted in 2016. This represents an increase in solar policy activity over 2015, when 46 states plus D.C. took approximately 175 actions.

Top 10 most active states

The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center said that the top ten most active states in 2016 for solar policy developments were: Arizona, Nevada, Maine, New York, California, Massachusetts, Florida, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Colorado.

In recent news from some of these states, the Arizona Corporation Commission in December voted in December to end net metering and replace it with export credits that will provide a lower payment for excess distributed generation. The ACC in January revised grandfathering language included in the net metering ruling.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Jan. 31 approved revisions to the state's net metering rules that determine the rate customers with rooftop solar panels get paid for excess power they ship back to the grid.

Also in New England, a filing made at the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission in late 2016 presented two options for replacing the state's net metering rules for solar power customers and proposed revising the state's community solar rules.

Q4 and 2017 outlook

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, the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center said.
The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center expects this high level of state and utility action on solar policy and rate design to continue into 2017.

The NC Clean Energy Technology Center is a University of North Carolina System-chartered public service center administered by the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University.

Additional information about the annual review and fourth quarter update edition of the "50 States of Solar" report is available here.

APPA papers explore rate design options for DERs, solar energy issues

The American Public Power Association in late 2016 released a series of reports that address rate design options for distributed energy resources, offer an overview of methods that utilities and analysts have used for value of solar studies in recent years and provide guidance to public power utilities on community solar projects.

Additional details on these reports and related topics are available on the Public Power Forward webpage on the Association's website.