This is a time of change in the solar industry and Austin is no exception. Solar Austin stays engaged in policy discussions at City Hall, with Austin Energy and with the community. We advocate for policies and programs that benefit solar customers, potential solar customers, and the local solar industry. We do a lot with our small budget and can do even more with your help.
SOLAR AUSTIN’S 2017 ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
NEW COMMITMENT FOR SOLAR INCENTIVE BUDGET FOR FY 2020-2027
The Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2025 stated that the utility would end solar incentives for new projects by 2020. As part of the update to the plan this year, we were able to negotiate an extension of solar incentives through 2027. While some of this budget would have already been required to cover past commitments for commercial performance based incentives (PBIs), there will now be an approximately $28.8 million in additional solar incentives for new projects between 2020 and 2027.
EXTENSION OF PER WATT RESIDENTIAL SOLAR REBATE
Austin Energy’s residential solar rebates were scheduled to end after three megawatts had been installed at the 50¢ per watt level. Instead, an additional megawatt was added at the 50¢ per watt level and an additional two megawatts were added at the 40¢ per watt level. This represents a $1.3 million commitment to the current residential solar program.
ADOPTION OF COMMERCIAL VALUE OF SOLAR
In 2015, Solar Austin initiated a conversation with Austin Energy staff about extending the Value of Solar tariff to commercial solar customers as a way to ensure that they are fairly compensated for all of the energy they produce. This issue was subsequently taken up in the 2016 Austin Energy rate case, and as a result Austin Energy developed a proposal for a Commercial Value of Solar tariff. Solar Austin negotiated to have the environmental benefits added to the calculation in the form of the social cost of carbon. The social cost of carbon accounts for 1.5¢ per kilowatt-hour (22%) of the Commercial Value of Solar rate, which will be in effect January 1, 2018.
ALLOCATION OF FUNDS FOR LOW-INCOME SOLAR
Solar Austin believes that making solar accessible to as many people as possible will help to ensure long-term support for the industry. We have advocated for policies and programs to expand access to solar for low-income residents and those in multifamily housing. As a result of this work, the Austin City Council adopted a resolution directing Austin Energy to spend $500,000 in fiscal year 2018 on solar for “multi-family affordable housing, low-income residents, renters, and non-profits.” In order to meet this goal, Austin Energy is developing a Shared Solar feature in the billing system that Solar Austin has advocated for to divide value of solar credits from a single solar array among multiple residents. Once implemented, this function will reduce the cost and complexity of installing solar at multifamily properties, and has the potential to be utilized for future community solar programs. Additionally, Austin Energy is now recommending that half of the La Loma community solar capacity be offered to low-income customers at a reduced rate, with a small subsidy from existing low-income bill assistance funds.
LAUNCHING YOUTH SOLAR EDUCATION PROGRAM
In order to expand our educational outreach, Solar Austin is launching a program to teach elementary school kids about solar. We are crafting solar car kits and informational materials that we will take to classrooms and youth programs. In a 60 minute lesson, kids will learn about solar energy, assemble the cars, and then test them outside.