IREC: How to Build Community Renewables

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) released this week a new Community Renewable Power Proposal, which incorporates “best practices” in facilitating co-investment in local renewable power facilities.

IREC’s Proposal builds upon the best elements of community solar and renewables programs that have been adopted by a number of municipal utilities and by policy makers from diverse states, including California, Washington, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island.

Interest in community solar appears, at least in part, to come from recognition that many utility customers are not able to host an on-site system but would still like to invest in local renewable generation. For example, many renters and occupants of multi-tenant residential and commercial buildings may lack necessary control of their premises to host an on-site solar PV system. Add to that the potential for on-site shading and structural concerns and it becomes clear that even an eager property owner may not be able to host on-site PV generation.

In fact, a 2008 study of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that only 22 to 27 percent of residential buildings would be suitable for hosting an on-site PV system.

In light of the many benefits of community investment, IREC has set out to create a model community renewable program in an effort to guide policy makers and forward-looking utilities toward “best practices” in this evolving policy area. As the organization has done with net metering and interconnection, IREC’s approach is to take the “best practices” from what has been implemented thus far and synthesize those components into a policy that is easy to both understand and implement.

The report, called Community Renewable Power Concept Proposal, is the first of a series that will examine how best to implement community-oriented renewable energy projects.

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