Connecticut Shared Solar – Looking Ahead to 2015

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Despite strong stakeholder support and policymaker leadership, Connecticut’s shared clean energy legislation will not move forward this year. This is merely a speed bump on the road to shared solar success in CT. We are excited about how far we came with the hard work of our local partners, and we look forward to building on that momentum in the months ahead to get the job done in 2015.

Energy Committee Co-chairs Senator Bob Duff and Representative Lonnie Reed brokered some of the most above-board negotiations we’ve seen in a while between clean energy advocates and CT’s investor-owned utilities, Connecticut Light & Power (parent company = Northeast Utilities) and United Illuminating. Yet despite the legislators’ leadership, and the support and guidance of strong clean energy champions within the Malloy Administration’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), ultimately we were not able to reach agreement on a good program for Connecticut energy customers. These were the elements that fell short:

  • Fair compensation to customers for their portion of the clean energy produced by shared systems. Customers who participate in shared solar projects are investing their own private dollars in clean energy that benefits the whole state. They deserve fair credit on their utility bills for the benefits that clean, local, peak power provides. We weren’t able to reach agreement with the utilities on what that credit should be.
  • The ability for the utilities to request rate changes outside of the normal public stakeholder process for doing so (a “rate case”). This provision, proposed by the utilities, would have enacted sweeping new authority for the utilities to ask for any kind of rate changes they’d like, without the context and broad stakeholder participation that occurs in a rate case. This would have had implications far beyond shared solar. For example, the utilities could have proposed a high fixed monthly charge that ALL Connecticut energy customers would have to pay (The utilities would claim the charge was needed to make up for their loss of revenue from customers going solar. We, of course, would point out that the added value of the clean, local solar energy more than makes up for that loss.) Ultimately, the risk of unjustified charges on Connecticut ratepayers’ utility bills was not something clean energy advocates could support.

Fortunately, Representative Reed, the good folks at the Governor’s office, DEEP, and the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority have all expressed interest in finding a way to make shared solar a reality next year. Connecticut families, schools and businesses deserve a strong shared solar program. It’s too important for the majority of Connecticut customers for whom the traditional panels-on-your-roof model for solar just doesn’t work. Connecticut has implemented some of the most innovative clean energy programs in the nation, and we’re confident they’ll get shared clean energy right in 2015!

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Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.