August 3, 2017
CT Green Guide

Acadia: No 'arbitrary' cap on distributed solar

Contributed photo
Contributed photo
A Litchfield home that won the Zero Energy Challenge in 2016. Acadia Center is worried that distributed solar is at risk.
This graph from the draft CES shows the higher cost of distributed clean energy compared to large grid-scale generation.

The nonprofit Acadia Center says it's concerned about a possible decline in the growth of customer-sited solar installations.

In a report, Acadia, which advocates for clean energy and consumers, said the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's Comprehensive Energy Strategy, a draft of which was released last week, calls for an "arbitrary limit" on the growth of Connecticut's in-state market for distributed solar.

"Distributed" means the electricity is generated near where it's used. The most common type of distributed solar is on rooftops.

Although DEEP is pushing for an overall expansion of renewable energy in the state, Acadia said provisions laid out in the draft CES would lead to a nearly 80 percent decline in distributed solar installations in 2021 compared to 2016.

If policymakers move ahead with the draft recommendations, there would be capacity for 20 megawatts of distributed solar per year. That would compare to approximately 90 megawatts installed in 2016.

DEEP is accepting public comments on the more than 200-page draft until Sept. 25.

Asked about Acadia's concerns, the agency responded Thursday:

"The draft 2017 CES presents DEEP's best thinking about how to meet the goal of deploying the maximum amount of clean energy resources to reduce carbon emissions in the most cost effective manner for ratepayers. We are now accepting comment on the draft CES and we will carefully review all responses - including those offered by the Acadia Center - to produce the strongest and most effective final strategy possible."

DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee said last week that the agency wants to rely on larger grid-side renewables, such as solar and wind farms, which DEEP says are more cost-effective than distributed generation.

However, the agency also acknowledged that rooftop solar has "non-price advantages" for the state, such as reducing peak demand and helping large energy users reduce their bills.

One week after the release of the CES, other comments have started to roll in.

The most prevalent topic appears to be opposition to a proposed fee on heating oil, which would help fuel a utility ratepayer-backed energy efficiency fund.

In response to concerns about the proposal, which would require legislative action, DEEP said:

"The draft strategy offered the concept of a fee on heating oil to establish – for the first time – a permanent and reliable funding source so heating oil customers can participate fully in very cost-effective efficiency programs. At the current time, these programs are always available to natural gas customers, who pay a small charge on their monthly bill to support them. There is also a matter of equity here – because we have at times found other sources of funding to support participation of heating oil customers in these efficiency programs – but that means they are getting a free ride when others don't."

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