Oregon Solar News

Policy Update 4/19/16


19 April 2016 - From the desk of Jeff Bissonnette, Executive Director - As we’ve now moved well out of the legislative session, the pace of policy work has slowed to the more deliberate pace of rulemaking but the load is just as heavy. Before we dive into the issues themselves, activity around the membership of the Oregon Public Utility Commission needs to be mentioned.

PUC Appointments

Late last month (just as the last policy update was going out), PUC Chair Susan Ackerman submitted her resignation letter to Gov. Kate Brown, to be effective on May 20, 2016. That has set off a round of interest in the position and stakeholders discussing who might be a good fit. OSEIA has been part of those discussions. Various parties will provide lists of potential candidates to Gov. Brown. It is expected that the Governor will make a nomination in hopes that the Oregon Senate will confirm her nominee during the scheduled legislative days in May.

Also in the mix is an expected retirement of another PUC commissioner, John Savage. Although Commissioner Savage’s term does not expire until early 2017, he is widely expected to retire late in 2016. So another appointment would be imminent. Parties are considering both appointments together in order to anticipate the ultimate make-up of the full commission rather than thinking about the two appointments in isolation.

At this writing, the situation is not clear enough to make any predictions. We will report on the appointment processes next month as we head into legislative days.

Implementation of SB 1547

As members know, one of the big accomplishments from the 2016 legislative session was the passage of SB 1547, the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition bill. But passing the bill was only the first step. Now we have to write the rules to ensure that the policies contained in the bill are enacted as envisioned.

The first step in that process will be a workshop that the PUC will hold on April 21 to outline how they intend to conduct the rulemaking processes for the various aspects of the bill. In preparation for that workshop, a broad range of solar industry representatives and renewable energy advocates met to explore how solar can maximize the opportunities within 1) the increased Renewable Energy Standard (50% by 2040 for Portland General Electric and Pacific Power); 2) the new community solar program; and 3) the new small-scale renewables mandate (for resources under 20 MW). The group began to identify some key principles to pursue within the rulemaking process. More information will be forthcoming about those principles and the PUC process. The entire timeline as proposed by PUC staff last week is below. As you can see, it will be extensive and ongoing, not being totally completed until two years from now. We truly are at the beginning of the journey.

UM 1716 – Resource Value of Solar

This PUC docket is key for the future of solar in Oregon. It is exploring how to determine the value of solar to the utility system. Many aspects of solar are not currently considered when determining its resource value: its ability to potentially forestall distribution investments, providing a hedge against the cost of future climate regulation and the fact that it is a peaking resource – generating power at times when power is most expensive thereby eliminating the need to buy power at peak prices, just to name a few.

The docket has already been underway for several months and is not expected to conclude until mid-2017. But the stakes are high. PUC staff provides substantive comments in the docket in June. We will report on those comments and the responses from various parties as they happen.

Pacificorp Blue Sky RFP

Pacificorp just released an RFP for development of renewable energy resources. The funding comes from its Blue Sky block program. A bidder’s workshop was held on April 19.

The information about the RFP can be found here: http://www.pacificorp.com/sup/rfps/2016-renewables-rfp.html

Pacificorp also has an RFP for RECs. That information can be found here: http://www.pacificorp.com/sup/rfps/2016RECRFP.html

OSEIA will continue to get the word out on this over the next several days on various platforms but please forward this if you think there are others who would benefit from notice now.

Storage

We’ve written before about PUC Docket UM 1751 which seeks to implement a small storage program for private utilities (not consumer-owned utilities) in response to legislation passed in 2015. On April 15, the OSEIA board approved the creation of an OSEIA Storage Committee to ensure the state solar industry is at the forefront of developing storage policy. This committee could also take a look at resiliency issues as they are impacted by the development of storage. Send an e-mail to jeff@oseia.org if you want to be involved in this new committee or want to be keep up-to-speed on this issue.

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