The CT Mirror
by Jan Ellen Spiegel
February 1, 2016
Shared solar – a way to make solar power available to homes that are unsuited for solar panels or renters who can’t have them – is having a balky go in Connecticut. After a two-session legislative battle that began in 2014 and resulted in approval of only a small pilot project, the state is now a month past the statutory deadline for getting the first part of that pilot up and running.
And the finish line is not yet in sight.
The holdup is the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s request for clarification from the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority on aspects of what is and is not allowed as part of the pilot project. Only when it receives a ruling from PURA will DEEP formulate a preliminary request for proposals – something that was supposed to have been finalized and issued by Jan 1.
It is also possible that to resolve the questions before PURA the whole matter will wind up back in the legislature in the upcoming session, delaying the pilot program even longer.
“The pace of all this is concerning,” said Bill Dornbos, Connecticut director and senior attorney for Acadia Center, a regional environmental advocacy group that has fought for shared solar throughout the northeast. “DEEP probably would have been better off seeking some simple amendments from the General Assembly in this upcoming legislative session.”
Shared solar, also known as community solar, allows homeowners who can’t put up their own panels to subscribe to a system built wherever there’s a suitable site. It’s estimated that as many as 80 percent of Connecticut homes cannot have solar for any number of reasons, such as the roof facing the wrong way, it’s shaded, it’s too small or the home is a rental or apartment.
The electricity generated in a shared solar installation doesn’t go directly into homes; it goes into the electric grid over the existing utility infrastructure of lines and poles, and the subscribers receive credit.
DEEP asked PURA to look at a couple of specific issues – whether the existing legislation authorizes utilities to pass on to ratepayers costs related to shared solar, such as maintaining poles and wires, and whether the legislation permits utilities to administer such a program, which the state would like them to do. For full article.