Oregon Solar News

Policy Update - 6.22.17


Things at the Legislature are Happening Fast, Slowly -- The legislative session keeps moving forward. Things change rapidly, sometimes on an hourly basis. But final decisions seem to come slowly with entire days going by without clarity. But so it goes.

We are definitely seeing forward movement, though. HB 2760, the property tax exemption extension, passed out of the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee on a unanimous vote. It now heads to the full Senate for a vote and, assuming it passes, will go to the Governor for her signature. It has no opposition so we expect the bill to pass easily.

Details are still being worked out but we’ve also seen some movement on the solar tax credit (soon-to-be) formerly known as RETC. Don’t panic when you read this line but the program known as the Residential Energy Tax Credit will be allowed to sunset at the end of December 2017. BUT…under a new agreement recently developed by a legislative workgroup, on January 1, 2018, a new residential solar tax credit will immediately take its place. The new program...

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Policy Update - 6.16.17


As we move into mid-June, lots is going on in Salem at both the Capitol and the Public Utility Commission (PUC).

The Oregon House last week passed the extension of the property tax exemption (HB 2760) by a vote of 55-1. The bill now moves to the Oregon Senate where it was assigned to the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee. It has been scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, June 20. It faces no opposition by any interest group and conversations with committee members have been positive. Work continues on extending the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC).

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Policy Update - 6.8.17


With about 24 hours to prepare, both solar and energy efficiency advocates responded in a big way for the RETC hearing on Friday, June 2. Nearly 50 support letters were e-mailed to the committee in advance of the hearing - a huge show of support. Special thanks are due to Shaun Franks of True South Solar in Ashland, Bob Westerman of IBEW in Coos Bay and Sam Beeson of Mitsubishi Electric in Seattle all showed up in person to testify. Their efforts were rounded out by 6 or 7 others all testifying in support of extending the RETC.

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Policy Update - 5.31.17


Renewing the RETC (HB 2681) remains OSEIA’s top priority this session. Since the prospects for winning on RETC are very much entwined with the question of how the legislature will address the budget deficit, OSEIA has been following the budget deficit discussion closely.

Oregon’s budget deficit is structural in nature, meaning that the state’s taxes and other revenue sources routinely fail to generate sufficient funding to cover the cost of state services. Without reform to Oregon’s tax policies, large deficits will continue to impact Oregon policy-making in future sessions and threaten state programs.

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Policy Update - 5.26.17


Renewing the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) is OSEIA’s top legislative priority this session. Since the prospects for winning on RETC are very much entwined with the question of how the legislature will address the state’s $1.4 billion budget deficit, OSEIA has been following the budget deficit discussion closely.

The legislature’s first job, above all others, is to pass a balanced state budget for the next biennium. With such a large shortfall, any program that costs money is potentially on the chopping block—that includes RETC and even critical state programs like education and healthcare.

Oregon’s budget deficit is structural in nature, meaning that the state’s taxes and other revenue sources routinely fail to generate sufficient funding to cover the cost of state services. Without reform to Oregon’s tax policies, large deficits will continue to impact Oregon policy-making in future sessions and threaten state programs.

OSEIA has never weighed in with legislature on tax issues before. But the need for the RETC may require us to do that. We are seeking input on how potential policy positions on these issues could affect members’ work and company. Members have a survey in their inbox. Go here to fill out the survey if you haven’t already.

We will be also asking for OSEIA members to contact legislators very soon to support RETC. Once we define a specific funding mechanism, we’ll need to make sure that any extension stays in the final package. We know OSEIA members are ready to help deliver the message on how important RETC is. The time to help is coming quickly so stay tuned!

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It's Budget Writing Time in the State Capitol


With less than eight weeks left in Oregon’s legislative session, the legislature passed another significant benchmark on Tuesday: The State Economist presented May’s quarterly economic forecast to state legislators. The forecast provides the final estimate of revenue which legislators may allocate as they craft the next state budget.

What does that have to do with OSEIA’s legislative priorities? Well, OSEIA’s top priority is extending the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC). RETC brings numerous benefits to Oregon households and the solar energy and energy efficiency industries. But it also costs the states roughly $15 million dollars per year. With such a large budget deficit to fill, any state program that costs money is potentially on the chopping block.

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National SEIA to Host Western States Solar Lobby Day in Washington, DC


SEIA, the national solar trade association, is organizing a lobby day for solar companies based in and working in the western United States - Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico – in Washington, DC on June 22, 2017.

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Policy Update- Community Solar


Community solar offers exciting possibilities to help consumers who can’t put solar on their roof still access the benefits of solar by participating in a larger project and getting a portion of the energy from that project credited to their bill.

The Oregon legislature adopted a community solar policy in February 2016. The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) was charged with writing rules for the policy. The PUC has held a series of workshops starting in the second half of 2016 and continuing into 2017 as part of an informal process for the community solar rulemaking docket (AR 603). The community solar statute requires that rules for the program be in place by July 1, 2017.


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Policy Update - 4.27.17


Between OSEIA’s priority bills moving and a successful lobby day, it's been a good month for solar in Oregon's capitol but the outcome is still uncertain.

First, all three of OSEIA’s priority bills passed their first legislative hurdle by passing out of the House Energy & Environment Committee. Second, OSEIA hosted a successful and productive Solar Lobby Day last Monday in the capitol. OSEIA is beyond grateful to the 83 members and supporters who attended. We met with 67 legislators or their staff, that’s 75% of the 90-person legislature. Third, OSEIA policy staff and ten board members met with Governor Brown to discuss OSEIA’s solar priorities and solar’s role in our future. Nevertheless, we’ve a lot of work ahead to secure OSEIA’s priorities, and given the budget context, the outcome, particularly on RETC, is far from certain.

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Policy Update- 4.20.17


Solar Makes its Mark on Legislature

OSEIA is beyond grateful to its members and supporters who attended Monday's Solar Lobby Day in Oregon's capitol. The importance of that event is difficult to overstate. With all three of OSEIA’s priority bills out of their first committee last week, this was our first chance to carry the message of RETC’s importance to a broader range of legislators.

By any measure, lobby day was successful. All told we met with 67 legislators or their staff. That’s 75% of the 90-person legislature. At least 83 solar pros and supporters attended...

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Policy Update- 4.13.17


Solar bills pass first hurdle unanimously
It's been a great week for solar in Oregon's capitol! On Monday the House Environment and Energy Committee unanimously passed OSEIA's top priority bill, HB 2681, which would extend the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) for six more years.

And yesterday, following a last minute vote count dash, the same committee passed HB 3227, the bill to create a taxpayer incentive for community solar subscribers. Huge thanks to Clean Energy Collective's Charlie Coggeshall for joining us on short notice to testify.

All three of OSEIA's priority bills are out of their first committee (meaning they've meet the first legislative deadline) with unanimous, bipartisan support. There have been no "no" votes on solar yet this year. (The third bill is HB 2760, the property tax exemption for solar and other net-metered alternative energy devices, got out of its first committee a couple of weeks ago).

That's a great foundation for the next step in the legislative process: winning the money to fund these programs. The legislature is grappling with a $1.6 billion budget deficit for funding state programs, so any program that costs money is potentially on the chopping block.

That's why Monday's Solar Lobby Day is crucial, and the timing is perfect. With all our bills out of committee, now is the time for solar supporters to come to the capitol and help us carry the message of solar's benefit to a broader group of legislators. We have fifty lobby meetings scheduled, including with all members of the next committees our bills will face. This is an opportunity for you to make a big difference.

Please register for Solar Lobby Day today is the registration deadline!

Policy Update- 4.6.17


The 2017 legislative session is well underway and the OSEIA legislative team is hard at work. We are pursuing the policy agenda developed by the membership and approved by the board. Here’s an update on what’s happening with the key bills taking up most of our time.

  • HB 2681 - Six-Year Extension of the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC): This bill had its first hearing on March 29.
  • HB 2760 - Property Tax Exemption for On-site Renewables: The bill moved from the House Energy and Environment Committee to the House Revenue Committee on April 4.
  • HB 3227 - Create a Tax Incentive for Community Solar Participants: The legislature created a community solar policy in 2016 that will give people who cannot put solar on their roofs the opportunity to participate in a solar project and see the benefits on their utility bill
  • SB 339 - Clarifying the Small-Scale Renewable Mandate in the Increased Renewable Energy Standard: When the legislature increased the Renewable Energy Standard for Oregon’s two largest private utilities, they included a mandate to include a portion of small-scale renewables (under 20 MW).
  • SB 979 - Renewable Energy Direct Access: Many large utility customers (Wal-mart, Microsoft, Facebook and the like) want to have access to increased renewable resources to be able to say that they are powered by renewable energy.
Key Deadlines Approaching:The session is about to hit key legislative deadlines for bills to get moved out of their originating committees. Most of the bills we are working on should meet those deadlines but it will be good to have the field cleared a bit of other bills that aren’t going anywhere. Sign up for Solar Lobby Day!
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First Hearings Held for RETC and Property Tax Exemption Extension


We’ve been talking about extending the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) and the property tax exemption for a long time. But yesterday (Wednesday, March 29) we had the first hearing to start the process.

For an hour and a half, solar installers, energy efficiency advocates, labor representatives and economic development workers told the members of the Oregon House Energy and Environment Committee about the benefits of the RETC and the property tax exemption (but mostly RETC) – for consumers, for businesses and for Oregon.

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OSEIA 2017 Bill Tracker


Track 2017 Bills Important to OSEIA:

HB 2066 - Solar Home Incentive Program (SHIP)

HB 2681 - RETC: Residential Energy Tax Credit Extension - OSEIA no longer supports extension of RETC

HB 3227 - Creates a taxpayer incentive for community solar subscribers

HB 2760 - Extends sunset for property tax exemption for alternative energy systems

HB3242 - Residential property assessed clean energy (PACE) programs

HB 3050 - Relating to solar photovoltaic power generation facilities - Dead.

SB 339 - Clarifying the Small-Scale Renewable Mandate in the Increased Renewable Energy Standard

SB 979 - Renewable Energy Direct Access - Dead.

Join our legislative rapid response team, we need your help!

RETC Update- 3.17.17


A quick update on the RETC; Oregon’s Residential Energy Tax Credit —> a great program driving solar in Oregon for many years!

  1. The RETC program is scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2017
  2. OSEIA is pushing for a 6 year extension of the RETC
  3. It has been assigned a bill number: HB2681
  4. You can track some of the details here.

Policy Update- 2.28.17


We're nearly four weeks into Oregon's legislative session and, while it's still too early to read the tea leaves, prospects look hopeful for OSEIA's major policy priorities this session. The House Environment and Natural Resources Committee tentatively scheduled a mid-March hearing for two OSEIA priorities—extending the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) and extending the property tax exemption for solar. To prepare, OSEIA's executive director, Jeff Bissonnette, spent part of last week in Salem. He heard good feedback in a round of lobby meetings with legislative leadership and with every member of the environment committee.

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A Letter from the Executive Director


2016 started out with a bang with the Oregon legislature approving an expanded Renewable Energy Standard for Portland General Electric and Pacific Power. It also created the policy framework for community solar and passed an incentive for large-scale solar projects ranging from 2MW to 10MW. Much of the remainder of the year has been taken up by the mechanics of moving policy to real-life implementation. Much of that work will continue into 2017.

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2017 OSEIA Solar Policy Agenda


Top Tier

Extend the RETC; apply RETC to community solar

Extend property tax exemption for solar

Pursue changes as needed to large-scale solar incentive (HB 4037 – 2016)

Second Tier

Create a commercial solar incentive

Incentives to install solar on multi-family housing

Bring PACE (Property-Assessed Clean Energy) financing to Oregon to tie the cost of solar installation to a building's property tax

Potential Support Items (OSEIA helping but not in the lead)

Modify the mission of the Oregon Public Utility Commission to allow consideration of environmental and climate impacts

Change building codes to increase energy efficiency and solar readiness in all new residential and commercial construction

Clarify small-scale renewables mandate within SB 1547 (2016)

Support funding for Oregon Renewable Energy Center at Oregon Institute of Technology

Modify 1.5% for Solar to create more opportunities for solar and perhaps align with community solar

Non-Legislative/Regulatory

Ensure community solar gets a strong start (PUC)

Account for all solar costs and benefits/Resource Value of Solar (PUC)

OSEIA Adopts Its 2017 Solar Policy Agenda


Back in May 2016, OSEIA kicked off a six-month process where solar industry folks contributed policy ideas and then ranked them. About two dozen specific ideas ended up being thrown into the mix and the ranking reflected the top priorities for the industry.

It’s important to note that the Oregon legislature is going to be dealing with thorny budget issues. Unfortunately, our top priorities involve money. That just means we will have to present a very good case to legislators. And we have a good case to make. Here are our top tier legislative issues...

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What is Oregon's Solar Potential


OSEIA members and supporters all know that Oregon is a great place for solar. But what is solar's potential in the state? That's a key question as we look at policy questions and deal with issues like net metering, incentives for installing solar on rooftops and developing utility-scale projects.

An exciting project that OSEIA has undertaken is to create an "Oregon Solar Business Plan" to outline the potential that solar energy has over the next ten years in Oregon. Initial findings will be revealed at the Northwest Clean & Affordable Energy Conference on Thursday, Nov. 17 @ 10:50am.

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OSEIA's Policy Work Picking Up Speed


It’s hard to believe it’s already mid-October. While it seems like a good idea to just sit around sipping all the pumpkin spice beverages that seem to have invaded the market, things are just too busy for solar advocates to take it easy. Here are a couple of key things that are keeping things hopping: Oregon PUC Draft Solar Report, Community Solar Rulemaking (AR603), Oregon Solar Business Plan, Policy (we need you to rate proposals!), and more.

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Policy Update: A Little Bit of a Lot


Well, it’s official. Summer’s over, fall’s here, kids have been back to school for a few weeks and the campaign season is moving headlong toward Election Day. That means there’s a lot going on. Usually, these policy updates focus on one or two key items but this one will touch on several important points that are all happening at once- developing a 2017 Legislative Agenda, organizing the Oregon SolarPAC, developing the Oregon Solar Business Plan, keeping up with PUC activities, and more.

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Policy Update: The Busy is About to Get Busier

There was a time when the “dog days of summer” really did mean ”a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence.” But the summer of 2016 was marked by anything but inactivity on the policy front. And it’s about to get busier.

Summary:

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OSEIA Comments on First Draft Solar Report, UM 1758


10 August 2016

Via Electronic Filing

Public Utilities Commission of Oregon Attn: Filing Center

PUC.FilingCenter@state.or.us

Re: In the Matter of PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION OF OREGON,
Report to the Legislature on Incentives for Development and use of Solar Photovoltaic Energy Systems. Open via House Bill 2941.
Docket No. UM 1758

Dear Filing Center:

Enclosed for filing in the above-referenced docket is the Oregon Solar Energy Industries (OSEIA)’s Written Comments in Response to the First Draft Solar Report. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Sincerely,

Jeff Bissonnette

Full comment report here.

Solar Industry Remains Critical of PUC Draft Solar Report


Oregon’s solar trade association filed comments today leveling serious criticisms in the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) proceeding that is developing a report on solar incentives for the legislature.

The Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association (OSEIA) said that it “regrets that the process has been significantly below the Commission’s usual standard of excellent public process and the draft product reflects that poor process.”

“Frankly, I was shocked at both the quality and the content of the draft report,” exclaimed Jeff Bissonnette, OSEIA’s executive director. “This is not what we’re accustomed to seeing from the PUC. Instead of thoughtful analysis that moves the conversation forward, we got a draft report full of unsubstantiated assumptions and wild guesses at the future of solar in Oregon.”

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OSEIA Slams PUC’s Draft Solar Report


In 2015, the Oregon legislature passed a bill instructing the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) to produce a report that evaluated various solar incentives. The PUC opened a docket (UM 1758) as the process to produce that report. A draft report came out late last week and, sadly, the draft reflects the process that produced it: poorly thought out with questionable conclusions. Because of this, the solar industry is pushing back hard.

OSEIA released a statement about the process leading to the draft report, comparing it to “a student who procrastinated on a school assignment.” That statement can be found here. If you want to read the draft report itself, you can find it here.

OSEIA staff has reviewed the draft several times and will submit comments by next week in accordance with the docket schedule. Those comments will make several key points:

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OSEIA Criticizes Utility Regulators for Flawed Process

For Immediate Release -- Oregon’s statewide solar trade association sharply criticized the process that led to today’s release of a draft report, comparing a state utility regulatory agency to “a student who procrastinated on a school assignment.”

The Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association’s (OSEIA) comments came on the heels of a draft report released today by the Oregon Public Utility Commission that suggested “potentially radical” changes in Oregon’s solar energy policy. The commission is developing the report in response to House Bill 2941 passed in the 2015 session of the Oregon legislature. The legislation directed the commission to evaluate a range of solar programs and submit its report by September 15, 2016.

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The Power in Political Giving

Although organized political giving is new for Oregon’s solar industry, it has long been standard practice for many, if not most, other Oregon professional trade organizations and businesses to lobby the legislature. Here’s a sampling of several other groups’ political giving to Oregon candidates and campaigns during the 2013-14 election cycle:

POLITICAL GIVING IN THE 2013-2014 ELECTION CYCLE

UTILITIES:

  • Portland General Electric: $383,119
  • PacifiCorps: $179,870
  • NW Natural Gas: $310,559
  • Idaho Power: $23,975

TRADE GROUPS

  • Oregon Business Association: $105,962
  • Associated Oregon Industries: $540,112

(Source: Oregon Secretary of State’s ORESTAR Database)

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OSEIA Meets with Governor Kate Brown


On Tuesday, July 19th through our newly formed Oregon SolarPAC, OSEIA met with Oregon's Governor Kate Brown to discuss the importance of clean energy, especially solar energy. Joined by a consortium of renewable energy stakeholders at the Vestas offices in NW Portland, the solar industry comprised of at least 30% of all those in attendance.


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Obama Administration Takes a Stand on Solar Energy


The Obama Administration announced the Clean Energy Savings for All Americans Initiative, a suite of new programs that are aimed at increasing access to solar energy and energy efficiency across the United States. In the video below, President Obama describes how the flagship program, an expansion of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, will allow more Americans to go solar, including those in low income communities. By doing so, they can save money on their electric bills while helping fulfill the U.S. commitment to combat climate change. The President's message is clear: solar is a choice available to all Americans.



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