Maryland PSC issues its ruling about Community Solar tariffs
Last week, after many months of work, discussions and debates, the Maryland Public Service Commission issued its order on the tariffs and program design of the Community Solar Pilot Program. We are beyond thrilled and excited to finally start working on projects that will bring clean, renewable solar power to the thousands of Maryland residents, businesses, and organizations that otherwise do not have access to rooftop solar. For the past year, my colleagues and I have toured all corners of our great state talking to groups of people about the possibility of getting solar from a community project in their area. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Marylanders hunger for clean energy solutions and community solar is an affordable, available solution that fights climate change, protects people’s wallets, and builds even greater sense of community. Once this program starts, we will have taken a huge leap forward in making solar accessible for everyone, not just the select few.
The PSC decisions on the few remaining points of contention were mostly favorable to my view on how the program should be designed. A few highlights:
- Jurisdictions that impose an energy tax on a kwh basis will NOT be allowed to charge that tax to consumers of community solar. In making this incredibly positive ruling, the PSC cited the case of Montgomery County, but it applies to all jurisdictions. The PSC said that community solar should have the exact same net metering benefit as behind the meter (or rooftop) solar (not their exact words). This is a huge win for consumers and businesses who will be able to avoid these taxes simply by switching to community solar.
- The program queue will not be fully allocated for all three years immediately. Instead, we will now apply to be in the program for year one, and then next year there will be another queue. This is good for ensuring small and community based projects still have a chance to get in.
- Bonding requirements for Subscriber Organizations are still a little too high from our perspective, but we think they will be manageable.
- The PSC struck down an idea from their staff that would have added yet another layer of review to projects, which could have delayed projects from starting for another couple of months.
- The PSC ruled in favor of greater transparency on knowing about available program capacity.
- The PSC also ruled in favor of finding more ways to make this program fair for low income residents.
The PSC has given the utilities and staff 15 days from February 15 to file the final clean copies of the tariffs. If all goes to plan, we believe the program will open in March!