Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) issued a notice that the final draft of the Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future plan (“Solar Plan”) will be released this fall.  After receiving comments from businesses, utilities, nonprofits, academia, and citizens, the DEP will hold another stakeholder meeting on November 15, 2018, to discuss the final Solar Plan and present the draft strategy support guide.

By way of background, the Solar Plan began in 2017 as a statewide planning project led by the DEP’s Energy Programs Office (“EPO”).[1]  The goal of the Solar Plan is to equip Pennsylvania to produce more solar energy.  Specifically, the Solar Plan set a target that 10 percent of retail electric sales will come from in-state solar energy sources by 2030.  The DEP indicates that this 10 percent target is achievable but challenges the “business-as-usual” model and promotes development of a variety of strategies that could be pursued.  Essentially, to meet this 10 percent goal, approximately 11 gigawatts of solar energy must be installed in the State.[2]

In developing the Solar Plan, drafters considered five main strategies:[3]

  • Increasing the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (“AEPS”) requirements for solar to 4-8 percent by 2030;
  • Providing customers access to capital, including provision of loan guarantees;
  • Adopting carbon pricing;
  • Creating uniform policies for siting and land use; and
  • Considering tax exemptions that encourage solar deployment and assist solar projects in finding project sponsors with tax equity.

In addition to those core five approaches, the Solar Plan’s authors considered other strategies involving decentralized projects (i.e., solar panels on residences) and grid-scale solar projects.[4]

Stakeholder responses to the draft Solar Plan were varied, with some in support of the Plan and others critical.  Some commenters indicated that the Solar Plan impeded the goals of the Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act (“Competition Act”) because the Solar Plan proposed to reinstate centralized generation planning beyond what has already occurred with the existing AEPS statue.  In addition, concerns were raised about the costs of implementing strategies proposed in the Solar Plan and how those would be recovered.  While the planning phases for the Solar Plan were funded by a combination of a grant from the Department of Energy (“DOE”) and time and resource investments from DEP and other associated partners, it is unclear what the costs of implementing the Solar Plan’s programs would be or how (and from whom) those costs would be recovered.  Those questions may be answered at the November 15 stakeholder meeting with the release of the final Solar Plan.  In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding the information discussed above, please contact Pamela Polacek (ppolacek@mcneeslaw.com) or Aly Hylander at (ahylander@mcneeslaw.com).

[1] https://www.dep.pa.gov/Business/Energy/OfficeofPollutionPrevention/SolarFuture/Pages/Finding-Pennsylvania%E2%80%99s-Solar-Future.aspx

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

Governor Wolf has signed into law Act No. 40 under HB 118.  This Act, in addition to a number of other matters, adds language to modify the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS).   For your convenience, the actual language from the Bill is included at the end of this post.

The AEPS became effective on Feb. 28, 2005.  It requires that a specific percentage of electricity sold to Pennsylvania retail customers by Electric Distribution Companies (EDC) and Electric Generation Suppliers (EGS) should be obtained from alternative energy resources.  The percentage amounts of electricity covered by the purchase of Tier I, Tier II and Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) gradually increases each year through 2021.  By 2021, AEPs mandates that 18% of all electricity will come from alternative energy resources.

The Pennsylvania market for SRECs has been primarily oversupplied for several years.  This is in large part because PA was one of only two states that allowed sites outside of its geographical footprint to provide SRECs to satisfy the PA AEPS requirements. Currently there are a number of solar/photovoltaic sites in other states registered to provide SRECs to PA AEPS.  Below is a chart complied from the publicly available qualified facilities data on the PA PUC’s website:   (http://www.pennaeps.com/reports/)

 

 

You can see in the chart, at the present time, PA has only approximately 19% of the total nameplate capacity of facilities qualified to provide SRECs into the market coming from within its borders.   Despite this, Pennsylvania was the state of origin for 74.1% of the SRECs retired under the AEPS statute in the 2015 Reporting Year.

One of the expectations of restricting geographical eligibility to allow only those sites within the Commonwealth to provide SRECs to satisfy PA’s AEPS is that we will see an increase in the value of PA SRECs.  For reference, the current market price is approximately $5.00/2017 SREC and the alternative compliance payment (ACP) for 2016 was approximately $124/SREC.  In the 2015 Reporting Year, the weighted average credit price was $78.62/2015 SREC.  The ACP is calculated as 200% of the average SREC price paid over the compliance year which runs June to May.  The price impact of the restriction may take a few years to materialize because existing contracts with facilities outside of Pennsylvania are grandfathered.

The second expectation is that some of the in-state PA solar projects that may have previously been shelved due to financial decisions may now become viable.

If you need assistance with these projects, or any other renewable or on-site generation issues, McNees has a team of energy managers, engineers, accountants and attorneys to help you.  Please feel free to contact Amy York (ayork@mcneeslaw.com) or any of our attorneys in the Energy and Environmental Group for more information.

As promised, the actual language from the Bill:

This new language, effective as of the date of the Act, or October 30, 2017, added to AEPS requirements that solar systems satisfy one of the following:

(I) DIRECTLY DELIVER THE ELECTRICITY IT GENERATES TO A RETAIL CUSTOMER OF AN ELECTRIC DISTRIBUTION COMPANY OR TO THE DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM OPERATED BY AN ELECTRIC DISTRIBUTION COMPANY OPERATING WITHIN THIS COMMONWEALTH AND CURRENTLY OBLIGATED TO MEET THE COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS CONTAINED UNDER THE “ALTERNATIVE ENERGY PORTFOLIO STANDARDS ACT.”

(II) BE DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO THE ELECTRIC SYSTEM OF AN ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE OR MUNICIPAL ELECTRIC SYSTEM OPERATING WITHIN THIS COMMONWEALTH.

(III) CONNECT DIRECTLY TO THE ELECTRIC TRANSMISSION SYSTEM AT A LOCATION THAT IS WITHIN THE SERVICE TERRITORY OF AN ELECTRIC DISTRIBUTION COMPANY OPERATING WITHIN THIS COMMONWEALTH.

As to what will become of the facilities currently registered outside of the state to provide SRECs, the law says this:

NOTHING UNDER THIS SECTION OR SECTION 4 OF THE “ALTERNATIVE ENERGY PORTFOLIO STANDARDS ACT” SHALL AFFECT ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

(I) A CERTIFICATION ORIGINATING WITHIN THE GEOGRAPHICAL BOUNDARIES OF THIS COMMONWEALTH GRANTED PRIOR TO THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS SECTION OF A SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC ENERGY GENERATOR AS A QUALIFYING ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCE ELIGIBLE TO MEET THE SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC SHARE OF THIS COMMONWEALTH’S ALTERNATIVE ENERGY PORTFOLIO COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE “ALTERNATIVE ENERGY PORTFOLIO STANDARDS ACT.”

(II) CERTIFICATION OF A SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM WITH A BINDING WRITTEN CONTRACT FOR THE SALE AND PURCHASE OF ALTERNATIVE ENERGY CREDITS DERIVED FROM SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC ENERGY SOURCES ENTERED INTO PRIOR TO THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS SECTION.

Over the past few years, more businesses have begun to incorporate sustainability initiatives into their corporate cultures.  However, because energy costs represent a significant portion of a business’s operating costs, it is crucial to ensure that investments in renewable energy options align well with a business’s operations and budget.  Recently, McNees attorney Susan Bruce wrote an article on smart procurement strategies for businesses interested in pursuing sustainability goals while minding their energy costs.  If your company is interested in learning more about potential vehicles for renewable options, we encourage you to view Susan’s article and contact her with any questions at sbruce@mcneeslaw.com.