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Solar Mandate? Like it or Not, Consumers Pay

Fortnightly Magazine - December 1998

law are barriers to SBC implementation.

Connecticut. A new Renewable Energy Investment Fund of at least half a mill per kWh starts Jan. 1 as one of several system benefit charges %n35%n in the Connecticut electric restructuring law enacted in April 1998. %n36%n Overseen by the quasi-public Connecticut Innovations Inc. and a 12-member advisory board, the SBC funds increase to three quarters of a mill on July 1, 2002, reaching one mill per kWh by July 1, 2004 as assessed by the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control. %n37%n The SBC financing covers grants, direct investments or equity investments, contracts or other actions that support research, development, manufacture, commercialization, deployment and installation of renewable energy technologies, and actions that expand renewables expertise of individuals, businesses and lending institutions.

The DPUC established 28 dockets to begin implementing the extensive law on June 15, pointing toward partial retail access on Jan. 1. %n38%n However, an existing bill unbundling case started the SBC's first phase on Sept. 1. %n39%n In Connecticut, Northeast Utilities has financed five PV projects on schools and for remote, stand-alone lighting. %n40%n

Pennsylvania. While the 1996 Pennsylvania electric restructuring law %n41%n made no specific provision for system benefit charges for renewable energy, recent settlements are incorporating negotiated SBCs and renewable portfolio standards.

A PECO Energy restructuring settlement approved May 14 by the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission allocates a $12 million sustainable development fund over six years. The fund will finance sustainable energy and economic development and encourage small renewable energy technologies. %n42%n

A renewable energy pilot program for PECO is included in the low-income assistance program. A 2 percent RPS for a 20 percent customer block, or about 300,000 customers, is to be competitively bid. The RPS increases 0.5 percent each year, unless the cost of meeting the RPS level increases the cost of supplying the whole customer block. Rules for net metering are improved.

The Pennsylvania Power & Light restructuring settlement was approved by the PUC on Aug. 13 with a final order on Aug. 27. %n43%n An SBC of .0001 cents per kWh on PP&L's distribution and transmission rates will finance a Sustainable Development Fund to promote energy efficiency and renewables. Other settlement provisions allocate $3.2 million annually for R&D related to renewables and energy efficiency. Some $15 million annually goes toward low-income assistance. A September 1998 settlement approved by state regulators for Metropolitan Edison and Pennsylvania Electric Co. contains similar provisions. %n44%n

Wisconsin. A "public benefits charge" that includes renewable energy was envisioned by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission in a December 1997 "Enunciation of Policy Principles." %n45%n The SBC fund would include $5 million annually for renewables, along with $100 million for energy efficiency, $59 million for low-income programs, and $2 million for R&D.

In 1998, the Wisconsin Energy Bureau began a public benefits pilot program in Wisconsin Public Service Corp. territory. %n46%n Some $16.7 million of WPS funds are provided for demand-side management over two years, ending June 30, 2000. A $1 million Renewable Energy Assistance Program is anticipated by the energy bureau. About 25 percent