Eversource Proposes Community Solar Pilot Program for Low and Moderate Income Customers

Eversource is seeking approval from the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a proposed pilot program intended to provide opportunities for low and moderate income (LMI) customers to receive benefits from solar energy projects.  The “Clean Innovation Community Solar” proposal is in response to a Commission order issued in 2017.  The order directed regulated electric distribution companies to develop pilot programs using monetary bill credits to make the benefits associated with solar installation ownership available to certain LMI customers whose circumstances might not otherwise allow them to install solar panels for their own use or participate in a group net metered renewable energy project.    LMI customers who meet income and other eligibility criteria of the statewide Energy Assistance Program (EAP) can participate in the pilot.

Under Eversource’s proposal, a competitive request for proposals process would solicit bids from solar project developers willing to construct facilities having a total peak generating capacity of more than 100 kilowatts and less than 5 megawatts.  In the aggregate, these projects could provide up to 20 megawatts of solar power for the pilot program.

Eversource’s “Clean Innovation Community Solar” pilot would be very similar to New Hampshire’s current group net metering model in which developers/group net metering hosts are paid for solar power exceeding the group’s electricity usage.   However, under the new LMI proposal, the financial benefits of the solar project would be provided directly to LMI customers in the form of credit towards their electricity bills. In addition, Eversource would assume many of the existing administrative and financial responsibilities that currently may present obstacles for solar developers wishing to host group net metering arrangements.  For example, Eversource plans to identify and manage the LMI customers within the net metering group of a particular solar project, thereby relieving the project developer of the responsibilities of recruiting eligible LMI customers and other administrative tasks such as executing agreements with customers, and registering and filing annual reports with the PUC.  In addition, Eversource would be responsible for calculating and applying monetary credits to LMI customers’ bills that are based upon the then-prevailing rate for surplus electricity under Eversource’s net metering tariff.

The pilot’s development and implementation costs are estimated at $5,000,000 over the ten-year term of the project.  Eversource proposes to recover these costs through a mechanism requested in its pending base distribution rate case.  It proposes to recover the cost of surplus energy payments and credits through the default energy service charge – the same charge that recovers other net metering credits and payments from all of Eversource’s default energy service customers.

About the Author: Susan Geiger

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