- The Florida Public Service Commission unanimously approved Gulf Power’s Gulf Solar Energy Share, a community solar program that will allow customers to purchase up to 750 kWh of solar-generated electricity from a large central array and have credits applied to their bills.
- Residential and business customers will pay a $99 annual subscription fee which Gulf Power will reduce to $89 per year for a five-year commitment. At 2016 rates, the bill credit will be between $2 and $2.50 per month.
- This is the fourth solar project for the Southern Co. subsidiary. Three previous utility-scale installations were for the U.S. military. This one will serve individuals without solar suitable roofs who want to use solar.
Utilities are increasingly asking their commissions for community solar regulation and project approval. Just last week, the Maryland Public Service Commission proposed draft guidance to regulate a three-year community solar pilot project mandated by the state legislature in 2015.
Community solar sector leader Clean Energy Collective (CEC) also recently announced a program through which investor-owned utilities (IOUs) can own and rate-base community solar arrays. It allows IOUs to both meet their customers’ growing demand for access to solar without any risk of potential costs to non-solar-owning ratepayers and at the same time fulfill their obligation to shareholders to earn a profit.
Community solar's popularity has grown steadily with regulated utilities, as it allows them to develop solar for residential customers while avoiding common regulatory issues surrounding utility entry into the residential solar sector. In Utility Dive's 2016 State of the Electric Utility survey, 56% of respondents indicated their utility currently has or is pursuing a community solar program.
A recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated 49% of households and 48% of businesses are currently unable to host a PV system.
“By opening the market to these customers, shared solar could represent 32% to 49% of the distributed PV market in 2020," NREL report forecasted.