Colorado Public Utility Commission Begins Process to Expand Community Solar by 100,000 Homes

November 12th, 2019

Separate rulemaking session grants community solar industry its own seat at the table

Denver, CO – Last week, the Colorado Public Utility Commission (CPUC) set a Notice of Public Rulemaking (NOPR) and issued draft rules intended to fast-track the implementation of the Community Solar Garden Modernization Act, signed earlier this year by Governor Jared Polis. The potential additional solar energy could equal up to three percent of total grid capacity of investor owned utilities, supplying the equivalent of an additional 100,000 Colorado homes with clean and affordable solar energy. The announcement of the rulemaking and draft rules is a much-anticipated first step to implementing the law and increasing access to clean and affordable solar energy for thousands of Coloradans who are unable to install solar onsite either because they rent, live in multi-tenant buildings, or have unsuitable rooftops for solar.

The commission’s announcement has been met with overwhelming support from elected officials and the community solar industry:

Colorado Representative Chris Hansen said, “This move by the CPUC reinforces a step towards the policies that will advance Colorado’s 100% renewable energy goals by 2040. By empowering the citizens of Colorado to choose 100% renewable energy for themselves today through community solar, we can further accelerate our state’s goals.”

“We thank the Colorado PUC for its dedication and commitment to ensuring the Community Solar Garden Modernization Act is implemented in a timely manner,” said Jeff Cramer, executive director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access. “The PUC’s announcement validates that the commission and the Polis administration are prioritizing community solar as a vital component to Colorado’s clean energy generation mix and in achieving its goal of 100% renewable energy.”

“For customers unable to generate clean energy on their own premises, community solar is a perfect solution,” said Mike Kruger, President and CEO of the Colorado Solar & Storage Association. “As an industry providing renewable energy jobs and investment in Colorado, we see the CPUC’s announcement as a major stepping-stone to a 100% clean energy economy. We urge them to continue this momentum and fulfill their obligation to see this process through.”

“We have been pushing for a meaningful expansion to customer options via community solar for a long time and it shows that the CPUC is taking the community solar industry seriously as a vital piece of Colorado’s renewable energy mix,” said David Amster-Olszewski, CEO and Founder of SunShare, the nation’s largest residential community solar provider. “The outcome of this rulemaking is integral to meeting the Governor’s goal of achieving a 100% renewable energy future. By simply allowing customers more solar choices, the community solar industry can deploy large amounts of solar in a fraction of the time it takes the big utilities to even develop a plan”

The CPUC is requesting comments on the draft NOPR rules before December 5, 2019 and has scheduled a public hearing for January 13, 2020 to hear public comment and set rules for:

  • Community Solar Gardens’ availability in an open market outside of the utilities’ renewable energy standard plan, allowing subscribers the choice of whether to keep or sell their Renewable Energy Credits.
  • Increasing the size of existing and future gardens from two megawatts to five megawatts of energy as the new law requires.
  • Removing the current restriction that subscribers to current and future community solar gardens live in the same or an adjacent county to the solar garden.
  • Stimulating inclusion of low-income, residential, and agricultural subscribers through increasing the renewable energy credit purchase adders for those subscriber types.

According to Consumer Reports, more than 70 percent of Americans indicate they would choose renewable energy if it was easily accessible and cost-effective. However, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 75 percent of U.S. homes are unsuitable for rooftop solar panel installation and more than 50 percent of U.S. households are renters who are not able to choose to install a rooftop solar option.