Oregon Community Solar Update - 7.12.18

Slowly but surely, the implementation process continues for the community solar program. Though program rules were officially adopted one year ago, there remained critical details to be determined during this implementation phase prior to an actual program launch. The most significant update at this point in the process is the PUC’s establishment of an interim credit rate for an interim amount of capacity (Order 18 177) during an April 24, 2018 hearing. However, we’re now on the cusp of a Program Administrator (PA) being selected, which, in parallel to continued stakeholder engagement, should accelerate the implementation process beginning at the end of Summer or early Fall of this year and hopefully result in a program launch by the end of the year or Q1 or Q2 of 2019. The following summary provides more insight into what’s been decided thus far, what we’re waiting on, and opportunities for engagement.

The biggest and most recent update for the program is the PUC response to pleas by OSEIA and other stakeholders to establish a credit rate. Though the enabling legislation (SB 1547) and program rules clearly suggest an intent to make the credit rate “reflective” of the “resource value of solar” (RVOS), the PUC used their discretion to establish an alternative rate due to the lack of available (official) RVOS values for each utility (the RVOS proceedingis not expected to finalize until September 2018) and the relatively low (unofficial) values initially filed in late 2017. The PUC decision was to: use the residential retail rate(fixed (not floating) over 20 years) for 25% of the initial capacity tier (defined as 2.5% of 2016 peak load) for each utility, and within that to set aside 25% of capacity for projects up to 360 kW in size. Based on an assumption that the initial capacity tier for all three investor owned utilities is about 160 MW-ac, the allocation results in the establishment of a credit rate for the first ~40 MW-ac of the program, of which ~10 MW-ac is set aside for smaller projects. The table below provides rough estimates summarizing the decision. Note that the rates are current estimates and subject to change. The PUC stated that the interim rate and capacity allocation will serve as a “check-in” to review the program’s viability while consideration is given to a successor rate (potentially based on the RVOS) and associated transition.

 

While we have an interim credit rate established for the first ~40 MW-ac of the program, the next big decision (expected this July) will the selection of a Program Administrator. A request for proposal (RFP) process has been underway the past several months. Once the PA is selected, there will be a brief “protest” period followed by contract creation and negotiation which could take anywhere between 30-90 days. The PA is at the center of the program, facilitating the transfer of data and money flow between developers, utilities, and subscribers. It’s also tasked with finalizing the “Implementation Manual”, which will capture all the program guidance and details. Between the establishment of software infrastructure for the program, the coordination of stakeholders in finalizing the Manual, and seeking the PUC approval of said Manual, the PA will be very busy and likely take at least several months before the program is ready to launch.

In the interest of helping the PA complete the Implementation Manual as fast as possible, OSEIA and other stakeholders successfully pushed on PUC Staff to enable stakeholder engagement opportunities to explore the potential directions, if not establish final recommendations, on the remaining aspects of the program. An initial round of this stakeholder engagement produced input from four separate Subgroups: Funding, Data & Financial Exchange; Project Details; RVOS and Bill Credit Determination; and Low Income. Staff published a summary of the input provided by these groups along with recommendations, which the PUC adopted (Order 18-042) this past February 2018. Those groups temporarily went on hold over the past six months while the focus was dedicated to establishing an interim credit rate. With an interim credit rate established and the selection of a PA imminent, the Subgroups are now re-convening and meetings are (or will be) scheduled for the month of July. Note that the PUC Staff has introduced a new Subgroup focused on Consumer Protections and has removed the RVOS/Credit Rate Subgroup given an interim credit rate was established (though, effort may be needed here again to establish a transition process and methodology for the successor credit rate).

The Subgroups are open to any-and-all interested stakeholders. OSEIA will always be represented in these groups, but other OSEIA members are encouraged to participate as well. Meetings have already kicked off (as of July 9) and are likely to continue through at least the summer. The following provides the point-of-contact for each Subgroup if you’re interested in being added to the respective list serve.

  • Utility Data Exchange: Contact Erik Anderson (Erik.Anderson@pacificorp.com) and Nate Larsen (nate.larsen@pacificorp.com)
  • Low Income Matters: Contact Oriana Magnera (oriana@nwenergy.org) and Jaimes Valdez (jaimes@sparknorthwest.org)
  • Project Details: Contact Jon Miller (jon@oseia.org)
  • Consumer Protection: Contact Oriana Magnera (oriana@nwenergy.org)

There is still a lot of work to do and critical decisions that need to be addressed, namely with regards to program administrative costs (on participants) and tools for meeting the low-income requirements. That said, it would appear we are finally nearing a point where these pieces can be substantively debated and finalized for the launch of the state’s first major community solar program.  If you are interested in engaging in one or more of these groups contact Charlie Coggeshall (charliecoggeshall@gmail.com) and/or Jon Miller (jon@oseia.org) to get caught up on industry focus points, etc.

UtilityCategory (MW)Capacity (MW)Residential Rate
PGE.361 - 3~ 17~ $0.1103
≤ .360~ 6
PAC.361 - 3~ 12~ $0.1005
≤ .360~ 4
IPC.361 - 3~ 0.6~ $0.0880
≤ .360~ 0.19
OSEIA Oregon Solar