New NREL Reports: CREB’s, 3rd party PPA, Insuring PV, State FIT policies

Four new reports from NREL have hit the streets recently:

1) Kreycik, C.; Coughlin, J. (2009). Financing Public Sector Projects with Clean Renewable Energy Bonds; Fact Sheet Series on Financing Renewable Energy Projects, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 6 pp.; NREL Report No. FS-6A2-46605. December.

Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) can be used by public entities to finance renewable electricity projects. This fact sheet explains how CREBs work, how they can be implemented (particularly for the “new” CREBs program), provides guidance to CREBs issuers, analyzes CREBs compared to more traditional tax exempt bonds, and identifies challenges with the CREBs program.

2) Kollins, K.; Speer, B.; Cory, K. (2009). Solar PV Project Financing: Regulatory and Legislative Challenges for Third-Party PPA System Owners. 55 pp.; NREL Report No. TP-6A2-46723. November.

The third-party PPA model allows a developer to build and own a PV system on the customer’s property and sell the power back to the customer (who avoids most or all initial costs, as well as operations and maintenance responsibilities). However, third-party electricity sales face regulatory and legislative challenges in some states and jurisdictions. Several of these challenges pertain to whether third-party owners are deemed to act as monopoly utilities, competitive electricity suppliers, or both depending on the degree of retail electricity market deregulation. If third-party owners are deemed to act similarly, according to state definitions or state public utility commission (PUC) definitions, the third-party owners may also need to be regulated by the state PUC.  This report explores these challenges and identifies legislative and regulatory solutions that have been used to help third-party electricity sellers avoid PUC regulation.

3) Speer, B.; Mendelsohn, M.; Cory, K. (2009). Insuring Solar Photovoltaics: Challenges and Possible Solutions. 52 pp.; NREL Report No. TP-6A2-46932. December.

Although the market for insurance products that cover photovoltaic (PV) systems is evolving rapidly, PV developers in the United States are concerned about the cost and availability of insurance. Annual insurance premiums can be a significant cost component, and can affect the price of power and competition in the market. Moreover, the market for certain types of insurance products is thin or non-existent, and insurers’ knowledge about PV systems and the PV industry is uneven. PV project developers, insurance brokers, underwriters, and other parties interviewed for this research identified specific problems with the current insurance market for PV systems in the United States and suggested government actions that could facilitate the development of this market through better testing, data collection, and communication.

4) Hempling, S.; Elefant, C.; Cory, K.; Porter, K. (2010). Renewable Energy Prices in State-Level Feed-in Tariffs: Federal Law Constraints and Possible Solutions. 68 pp.; NREL Report No. TP-6A2-47408. January.

State decision makers have encountered arguments that state-level feed-in tariffs (FITs) are preempted by federal law. These arguments arise because the FIT transaction is a wholesale sale of electricity, from renewable seller to retail utility (which could trigger the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) and/or the Federal Power Act of 1935 (FPA)). Each of these statutes does in fact limit the discretion of state-level tariff designers.  State utility commissions, in conjunction with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), asked the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to explore how states can lawfully implement feed-in tariffs. This report seeks to reduce the legal uncertainties for states contemplating feed-in tariffs by explaining the constraints imposed by federal statutes.


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