Oregon PUC revises community solar program to encourage greater participation


SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – The Oregon Utilities Commission has approved policy changes to the Community Solar Program aimed at increasing enrollments of residential and low-income customers in the program.

The Community Solar Program offers Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, and Idaho Power customers the opportunity to subscribe to a qualified solar project of their choice and receive credit against utility bills for their share of the energy produced. . It is designed for customers who do not have access to other solar power generation programs due to rental instead of ownership, shaded roof, inability to pay the initial cost of installation of a solar energy system, among others.

“The results since the inception of this program have amplified the need for policy changes to better achieve the intent of the Oregon Legislature and improve access to solar power for residents and residents alike. low-income Oregon, ”said Megan Decker, president of the PUC.

In 2020, the Community Solar Program was launched with the provision of half of PGE and Pacific Power’s allocation of the program’s 160 MW of planned capacity (46.57 and 32.30 MW respectively), as well as the entire capacity allocated to Idaho Power (3.28 MW).

At a public meeting this week, the PUC approved the release of the remaining 79 MW of capacity for Pacific Power and PGE. To increase the participation of residential customers, the PUC approved the requirement that 50% of the capacity of each project be subscribed by residential customers. The PUC has also increased the discount for low-income subscribers from 20% to 40%.

“PUC staff have worked hard with program partners and the community to find a way to make this program a more viable option for low-income residents,” Decker added. “We endorsed their recommendation because supporting access to solar power for all Oregonians is an important outcome sought by the Oregon legislature.”

Other policy changes approved by the PUC include:

  • Reduce bill credit for participating non-residential customers to 90% of the customer’s retail rate to minimize cost impact to subscribers.
  • Added 2% annual indexation to the bill credit rate to support the subscription of more residential customers and to reflect expectations that retail electricity rates will increase over time.
  • Retain the 25 percent exemption for community projects, to ensure that smaller, more innovative projects and projects run by local non-profit organizations have the opportunity to participate.

In approving the changes to the program, the Commissioners also expressed concerns about the costs and results of the program. “While we have agreed to allow the adjusted program to move forward to capture more residential customers, including low-income customers, we will not expand the program further until all existing capacity is available. have not been subscribed, including the capacity reserved for small community programs. . The legislative goals of the program are difficult to balance with its current design, which may need to change significantly before it can be expanded further, ”Decker concluded.

In 2016, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1547, which ordered the PUC to establish a community solar program for Oregon customers of Idaho Power, Pacific Power, and PGE. . The PUC administers the program in partnership with Energy Solutions, Energy Trust of Oregon and Community Energy Project.

For more information on the Oregon Community Solar Program, including how to participate, visit www.oregoncsp.org or call 800-481-0510.

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