Maryland regulators provide initial guidance on rules for community shared solar
- The Maryland Public Service Commission has proposed a draft guidance on regulation of a three-year community shared solar pilot project mandated by the state legislature. It requires that subscribers earn full retail rate credit for the generation from their share of the array.
- Passed in 2015, Maryland's community solar law limits the capacity of community shared solar installations to 2 MW, requires subscribers to be in the same utility service territory as the array, and mandates virtual net metering so the utility taking the generation can apply credits to subscribers’ bills.
- The PSC draft guidance requires 30% of the solar capacity generated by a community shared solar array be reserved for low and moderate income subscribers and that a portion of project development be at brownfield sites, according to Earthjustice
The legislation allows participation in the pilot by munis and co-ops and requires the pilot to be initiated within six month of the PSC’s final approval of guidance. It also limits the size of any subscriber’s purchase of generation from a community shared solar array to 200% of their usage and imposes all interconnection costs on the array’s developer.
Community solar arrays are growing in popularity among U.S. utilities due to their ability to offer solar power to residential customers who otherwise would not be able to acquire it. A 2015 report form the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s 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, thereby leading to cumulative PV deployment growth in 2015 to 2020 of 5.5 GW to 11.0 GW, and representing $8.2–$16.3 billion of cumulative investment,” the report said.
Community shared renewables are also popular because they allow utilities to offer renewable energy to consumers without the regulatory tussles involving utility-owned distributed generation or net metering policies. In Utility Dive's 2016 State of the Electric Utility survey, 56% of respondents from utilities across the nation indicated their utility is pursuing community solar as an emerging revenue stream.
Community solar is expected to grow 59% annually through 2020, reaching a 2020 U.S. installed capacity of 534 MW, according to a recent report from GTM Research.