January 2021 solar policy snapshots

The fate of Illinois’s solar growth is in the hands of the legislature after the state ran out of renewable energy incentives.

Solar ITC extended at 26% for two more years
Washington, D.C.

The solar investment tax credit (ITC) was extended in the $1.4 trillion federal spending package signed by President Donald Trump on December 27. Previously scheduled to drop from 26% to 22% in 2021, the ITC will stay at 26% for two more years. All markets will drop to a 22% tax credit in 2023, and the residential market will drop to 0% while the commercial and utility markets will sit at a permanent 10% credit beginning in 2024.

Michigan PSC approves lower net-metering rate for Consumers Energy solar customers
Lansing, Michigan

The Michigan Public Service Commission ruled that Consumers Energy can now pay solar customers less for net metering. Instead of receiving the full retail rate for excess power sent to the grid, CE can pay them the power supply rate minus transmission. In good news for the solar industry, CE increased the cap on its Distributed Generation program from 1% to 2% and is required to perform a third-party study to examine the costs and benefits of distributed energy resources like solar.

Honolulu mayor signs ordinance to simplify solar permitting
Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 58, an ordinance to develop expedited permitting procedures for solar and storage projects that are 20 kW or smaller. The bill will establish an online permitting process that approves solar projects within 14 days after submission.

President-elect Biden chooses climate-change-fighting team
Washington, D.C.

President-elect Joe Biden has announced his picks for important climate and energy-related positions in his administration. He chose former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to lead the Department of Energy and former EPA Chief Gina McCarthy to spearhead domestic climate policy alongside John Kerry, the international climate envoy. The Biden-Harris Transition Team said in a statement, “This brilliant, tested, trailblazing team will be ready on day one to confront the existential threat of climate change with a unified national response rooted in science and equity.”

New guide outlines potential for large-scale solar projects in Southwest Virginia
Southwest Virginia

The Solar Foundation and Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia published a guide to help Southwest Virginia communities develop large-scale solar projects. The region has a long history of coal production and TSF says it has vast potential for new solar development. The group wants to make sure Southwest Virginia gets its share of solar projects set in motion by the Virginia Clean Economy Act.

Illinois Power Agency officially closes all state renewable energy incentives
Springfield, Illinois

The Illinois Power Agency announced the close of all state renewable energy incentives, which the Path to 100 coalition says effectively ends its renewables program. The group says this move will prevent Illinois from accomplishing its policy requirement of 25% renewable energy by 2025 unless new legislation passes.

SEIA says Dominion Energy rate case would undermine South Carolina’s Energy Freedom Act
Columbia, South Carolina

Dominion Energy filed a rate case that SEIA says ignores the intent of the 2019 Energy Freedom Act in South Carolina. The act requires utilities to file net-metering successor plans that avoid cost shifts and provide stability for solar customers, but SEIA says Dominion’s plan does the opposite by adding grid access charges and lowering the net-metering rate.

DOE announces up to $45 million for research to advance solar hardware, systems integration
Washington, D.C.

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced a big investment in preparing the grid for an influx of solar energy in the future. DOE is investing up to $45 million in solutions that can reliably bring large quantities of solar onto the grid and ensure American-made hardware is prioritized in these installations.

Massachusetts State Auditor says tax laws for solar operators are outdated
Boston, Massachusetts

A report issued by the Massachusetts state auditor found state laws governing taxes paid to cities and towns by solar power generators are outdated and confusing, and could slow the adoption of solar. The auditor found large commercial solar facilities have been allowed to avoid paying personal property taxes on their equipment by taking advantage of an exemption on solar equipment that was designed to promote residential and small commercial solar installations.