States earmark millions to fund solar projects via system benefits charges.
Making solar power a realistic choice for electric consumers is a burgeoning issue for state utility regulators. As part of electric restructuring, regulators are trying to finance the costs of solar installations.
Key to delivering commercial, on-grid solar power to new markets are state efforts, partnered with other government and industry actions. So far, the system benefits charge, or SBC, is the primary short-term incentive to develop solar, wind, biomass and other renewable resources. SBCs are being used in California, Rhode Island, New York, Illinois, Montana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
In early SBC actions, nearly $31 million for solar projects has been identified, usually leveraged with funding from customers, utilities or government. Conservatively, another $30 million in solar energy financing is on the horizon.
In most cases, the SBC is a small surcharge on electric distribution customer bills. SBC funds are used on buy down or rebate programs, projects set by competitive bids, or on other renewable enterprises. The renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, is a major incentive in restructuring laws. It's implemented over the long-term as markets develop for solar and other sustainable energy resources. %n1%n
The infusion of SBC dollars to finance solar energy technologies comes at the same time as a federal goal announced by President Clinton in June 1997 to place one million PV or solar thermal systems on American rooftops by 2010.