From California to Vermont, DSIRE’s Top 9 for ’09

If you’ve ever searched for information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency and you haven’t used DSIRE, you’ve been wasting a lot of valuable time.

A couple of impressive (if not enviable) DSIRE datapoints:

  • DSIRE contains in­formation on over 2,000 renewable energy and energy efficiency pro­grams;
  • DSIRE is visited by more than 200,000 unique users per month.

I include updates to the DSIRE database in my bi-monthly State & Stakeholder newsletter, and during 2009, they provided some 225 updates.  And since I publish 26 newsletters/year, by my count, DSIRE contributes more than eight items/newsletter.  For the June 17th newsletter, DSIRE anted up 21 news items.  21 news items.

So when I asked the DSIRE team for their notable news picks for 2009, I was dumbfounded when they whittled it down to nine.   Lucky for me; it made a great headline.

CALIFORNIA – Governor Strengthens RPS to 33% by 2020
Dissatisfied with renewable portfolio standard (RPS) bill passed by the California legislature, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the legislation and instead signed an executive order requiring all California utilities — including municipal utilities — to obtain 33% of their electricity from renewables by 2020. The executive order also transferred regulatory authority to the California Air Resources Board, with the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission serving in advisory roles.

HAWAII – RPS Increased to 40%
Hawaii’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) was significantly expanded by legislation enacted in June 2009. HB 1464 increased the amount of renewable electrical energy generation required by utilities from 20% by 2020 to 25% by 2020, and to 40% by 2030. The expansion of Hawaii’s RPS in 2009 formalized many of the goals established by the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative in 2008. The new law also altered provisions related to electrical energy savings and created a separate energy efficiency portfolio standard.

ILLINOIS – RPS Expanded; Strong Solar Carve-Out Established
Illinois enacted legislation in January that expanded the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by requiring alternative retail electric suppliers and utilities that sell electricity outside of their service territories to comply with the existing 25% by 2025 standard. In July, subsequent legislation required that a minimum of 6% of the state’s RPS must be met by solar PV beginning in 2015.

NEW JERSEY – Utilities Unveil SREC-Financing Programs
Jersey Central P&L, Atlantic City Electric, and Rockland Electric issued requests for bids for the purchase of solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) under long-term contracts, through a program overseen by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU). This program is available for residential and commercial systems up to 500 kW in capacity; contract terms run from 10 to 15 years. Projects are evaluated ranked on the basis of the net present value (NPV) of the SRECs over the life of the contract.

NEW YORK – PV Rebate Program Weathers Demand Storm
It took two additional funding authorizations (in addition to those made in 2008) and two reductions in incentive levels, but the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) managed to keep the New York PV rebate program open for a full year in the face of high program demand. Total funding for 2008-2009 ballooned from an original allocation of $13.8 million to more than $75 million. Although changes vary by sector and project size, incentives have been reduced in total by roughly $1.50 per watt compared to 2008 levels.

NORTH CAROLINA – Renewables Tax Credit Extended
Legislation (HB 512) enacted in August extended North Carolina’s 35% tax credit for renewable energy systems for five more years — to 12/31/2015. The bill also added geothermal heat pumps to the list of eligible equipment, with a cap on residential systems of $8,400 and $2.5 million for non-residential systems.

OREGON – Pilot Feed-In Tariff Created
In July 2009, Oregon enacted legislation establishing a pilot feed-in-tariff for solar PV systems. The aggregate capacity for the pilot program is 25 megawatts, with an individual system limit of 500 kilowatts (kW). The Oregon PUC must still devise final rules for this program. The same bill (HB 3039) also created a multiplier for solar in Oregon’s RPS, and requires electric utilities to develop 20 MW of solar PV by 2020.

PENNSYLVANIA – Swarm of Renewables Incentive Programs Take Effect
In July 2008, Pennsylvania enacted legislation creating the Alternative Energy Investment Fund and providing specific funding allocations for several renewable energy incentive programs that took effect in 2009. Among these new programs is a $100 million solar rebate program, PA Sunshine, for residents and small businesses; a $25 million grant and loan program for wind and geothermal technologies; an $80 million grant and loan program for solar technologies; and a $165 million grant and loan program for alternative and clean energy technologies. The grant and loan progams fund both end-use renewable energy projects and renewables manufacturing facilities.

VERMONT – Statewide Feed-in-Tariff Established
Vermont established a statewide feed-in tariff through legislation enacted in May 2009. Under this program, electricity providers will enter into long-term contracts with fixed standard offer rates for an aggregate total of 50 megawatts of renewable energy.

In addition to these DSIRE picks, a couple of other significant policies made headlines in 2009, and with good reason.

The proliferation of PACE Programs (Property Assessed Clean Energy), the trendiest state policy development over the last year, allows property owners to borrow money from the city’s Sustainable Energy Financing District to install photovoltaic (PV) systems and repay the cost over 20 years through an annual special tax on property tax bills.  Current count of states with PACE programs:  16.

PACE’s success can be attributed to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which pushed these policies along by repealing a provision that had limited the use of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for projects also supported by “subsidized energy financing.”  And because PACE financing programs probably qualified as “subsidized energy financing” under federal law, the removal of this provision was essential for these state policies to move forward.

 

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