The Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) released a first-of-its-kind guide designed to help policymakers develop community solar programs specific to their communities. The organization introduced the guide at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ (NARUC’s) annual meeting in La Quinta, CA, this week.
“Community solar is a nascent industry, but we’re growing fast. With this tool, CCSA is providing actionable recommendations to policymakers seeking to develop successful community solar programs in their states and localities,” explained CCSA Executive Director Jeff Cramer. “The 'why' of community solar is simple: It is the way to make solar an option for the 80 percent of Americans who aren’t able to put solar on their own roofs. But the 'how'—updating some of the outdated rules of our electric system to properly account for these new local power sources can be complex.”
This isn’t the first community solar guide CCSA has produced. The organization previously partnered with SEIA to release a consumer friendly guide called the Residential Consumer Guide to Community Solar. That guide was designed to assist potential community solar customers in learning more about the community and residential solar options available to them and to educate them through the process.
CCSA worked with numerous organizations in developing the new guide for policymakers. As such it builds on the efforts of multiple organizations interested in community solar, including the Interstate Renewable Council (IREC) and the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA).
The new guide has a decision matrix that focuses on important aspects of developing community solar projects: program structure, compensation, consumer participation, project characteristics and considerations for low-income customers. “This decision matrix is intended to help guide policymakers in designing programs that work for their communities,” Cramer said.
As community solar gardens take root and thrive across the nation, they’re opening up more solar opportunities to consumers whether they are homeowners, renters or businesses. The potential benefits that community solar projects offer are also becoming more popular with utilities and states, which is garnering interest from more businesses that want to be involved.
In one recent example, Arcadia Power introduced an online solar savings subscription service through the use of sophisticated software that integrates more than 100 utility billing systems nationwide, allowing a utility customer to sign up for the benefits of a virtual community solar garden even if it’s thousands of miles away or if they move. As these types of options continue to grow it’s likely more companies will step in with unique offerings to help policymakers and consumers get access to even more community solar gardens.Tweet