Coming on the heels of Salt River Project’s announcement that it will procure up to 1 GW of solar capacity by 2025 and will seek to offer some community solar projects to its customers, this week two organizations released a new checklist intended to help regulators and interested stakeholders evaluate and improve community solar across the country.
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and Vote Solar developed the checklist to promote scalable and replicable community solar programs that benefit customers and communities.
Marta Tomic, community solar program director at Vote Solar said that there are “proven paths to success when it comes to developing robust community solar programs,” adding that Vote Solar “urges regulators, utilities and other stakeholders to use this checklist as a resource to create low-cost consumer-centric offerings that actually give customers the solar offering they want.”
Nationwide, more than 220 utilities offer voluntary community solar programs across 36 states, yet the majority of these programs charge customers a premium for their subscriptions. Utilities are motivated to establish community solar for a number of reasons, including rising customer demand for renewable energy, providing economic benefits to low- to moderate-income (LMI) customers and underserved communities, and diversifying the energy resource mix, among others.
“As more utility-led programs are developed and refined, and as regulators are tasked with reviewing and approving such programs, this checklist provides a useful reference to guide successful community solar programs that benefit customers,” said Sara Baldwin Auck, IREC’s regulatory program director.
The resource expands on seven key principles and topics:
- Expand customer access to clean energy
- Offer tangible economic benefits for all participating customers
- Identify ways to promote project development cost savings
- Prioritize the customer experience
- Promote competition
- Optimize community solar to benefit the grid and community
- Complement existing programs
The organizations said that the focus on utility-led community solar programs in this new tool is not intended to imply or recommend that voluntary offerings should be the only programs made available nor does it take a position on utility-ownership. Rather, this checklist highlights key considerations to support replicable successes across diverse markets, they said.