WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) introduced S. 1723, the Promoting Renewable Energy with Shared Solar (PRESS) Act, a bill to boost access to renewable energy through community solar projects.
"This bill is a great opportunity to put solar energy within the reach of more families in New Mexico and around the country," said Sen. Heinrich. "Shared solar projects have the potential to allow more Americans who lack sunny roof space or startup capital to truly benefit from solar energy and take personal ownership over their own energy use and carbon footprint. My legislation would require states to look at adopting new standards that allow community solar projects to be connected to the grid and allow electricity produced by shared solar facilities to be credited to consumers, offsetting their electricity bills. Promoting cleaner sources of renewable energy helps families save money, diversifies our economy, and creates high quality jobs at the same time."
The bill adds a new federal standard for states to consider that requires utilities to allow community solar projects up to 2 megawatts in size to be connected to their power distribution system. The legislation also requires the utility to allow the electricity produced by the community solar facility to be credited directly to each of the consumers that owns a share of the system, offsetting cost of the electricity that would normally be billed by the utility to the consumer.
In 2012, Clean Energy Collective and Kit Carson Electric Cooperative in Taos, New Mexico, partnered to launch the state's first community-owned solar garden at Taos Charter School. Currently, the partnership has yield more than $400,000 in customer savings and has a lifetime production of more than 420,000 kilowatt-hours.
Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia have shared renewable energy policies in place. The bill will encourage other states to consider implementing new policies to promote community solar projects.
Senator Heinrich's bill amends section 111 of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) of 1978, under which Congress has directed states to consider adopting certain regulatory policies at the retail level. With these "states-must-consider" standards, states are required to undertake regulatory proceedings and make a determination as to whether or not to adopt each of the standards in question. The governing boards of non-state jurisdictional utilities, such as municipal and cooperatively-owned utilities, that sell more than 500 million kilowatt-hours per year are also required to consider the adoption of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act standard.
This week, the White House launched a new initiative to boost community solar projects with a focus on serving low-income families, and offer loans and "toolkits" to make it easier for families to draw their energy from solar power and improve energy efficiency in their homes. The initiative includes a pledge to install a total of 300 megawatts of solar and other renewables in federally subsidized housing developments by the year 2020.