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Halfway Through 2022: A Summary of REV’s Regulatory Advocacy

by | Jun 27, 2022

In the first half of 2022, REV fought for the renewable energy community in nine Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) proceedings and one U.S. Department of Commerce tariff circumvention investigation. REV is committed to creating a fair, predictable, and efficient regulatory process that supports, rather than inhibits, renewable energy development in the state.

Our regulatory advocacy is member-directed and relies heavily on the expertise and experience of REV members who participate in our working groups. As REV staff, we strive to synthesize the knowledge and amplify the needs of our members to maximize our collective impact while minimizing individual members’ burden when participating in the regulator process.

We are extremely grateful to our members of all sizes who have participated in REV working groups. Thanks to their contributions, we have achieved victories related to:

  • Solar tariffs
  • Project commissioning deadlines
  • GlobalFoundries RES compliance
  • GMP’s Bring Your Own Device storage incentive program
  • Improvements in the draft interconnection rule

Unfortunately, the regulatory process in Vermont continues to throw up unnecessary hurdles that make it harder to achieve our climate and energy goals. And this is why REV will continue to push for improvements within the regulatory framework while simultaneously advocating for legislative action to fix a siting and permitting process that is not working for Vermont.

Closed Cases

Net-metering Biennial Review (22-0334-INV): This June, the Public Utility Commission released its decision in the 2022 Net-Metering Biennial Update. Unfortunately, but as expected, the PUC opted to cut the incentive for Vermonters to participate in net-metering for the sixth time in six years. The nominal rationale for the cut is to protect non-participating ratepayers from a “cost-shift” that they attribute to net-metering. However, as we discussed in our recent post “The PUC Cuts Net-Metering Compensation … For What Exactly?”, the Order’s rate impacts are negligible at best. The reality is that the PUC continues to treat the renewable energy requirements in the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) as a ceiling when they should be treated as a floor.

In our April filing, developed with input from nearly a dozen members of our REV working group, we argued that as we ask Vermonters to electrify everything it is time to increase compensation for net-metering.

Guiding Principles:

  • All Vermonters should have meaningful access to net-metering
  • Complying with the GWSA requires massive new renewable deployment
  • An insufficient rate of net-metering deployment hurts Vermont and Vermonters

Key Findings: The Department is recommending cutting net-metering compensation while:

  1. net-metering interconnections have been declining steadily since 2016,
  2. the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is scheduled to drop in both 2023 and 2024,
  3. development costs are rising,
  4. supply chain disruptions, inflation, and interest rate increases are occurring,
  5. the Department itself is unsure of the impact of NM 2.3 and 2.4 on interconnection and CPG application trends, and
  6. complying with the GWSA will require significant growth in new renewable energy capacity.

Read our full comments here. The PUC’s Order set the statewide blended rate at $0.1741/kWh and reduced siting adjustors for all Categories, I-V, by $0.01/kWh. The new compensation rate will go into effect on September 1, 2022.

Working Group: Bill Bender, David Russell, Gregg Freeman, Jake Elliot, Josh Leckey, Kim Hayden, Kyle Wallace, Jim Merriam, Nils Behn, Paul Lesure

GlobalFoundries (21-1107-PET): The PUC rejected GlobalFoundries’ request to become a self-managed utility exempt from the Renewable Energy Standard. REV’s actions highlighting this assault on the integrity of the RES and legal support from CLF and All Earth Renewables led the PUC to reject this request and constituted a major victory for the renewable community. REV continues to monitor but is not opposing GlobalFoundries’ ongoing efforts to become a self-managed utility that complies with the state’s renewable energy requirements.

GMP’s BYOD Program Incentives (21-5254-TF): In December of 2021, GMP filed a new tariff for their Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program that would have required participants to enable grid charging for their batteries, making them ineligible for the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC). REV members flagged this as a bad deal for Vermonters and a potential setback to the growing residential storage industry. This January, the working group submitted a letter to the PUC asking it to reject this new tariff. Subsequently, GMP and REV members held a series of conversations about how best to preserve the effectiveness of the BYOD program. As a result of REV’s feedback, GMP ultimately developed an alternative tariff for their BYOD program that is compatible with the ITC. Unlike GMP’s initial tariff filing, which made the BYOD program and the ITC either/or options, the new tariff preserves the ability of consumers to utilize the ITC and access a BYOD credit worth $650 to $750 per kW (for 3 and 4-hour discharge respectively). This is a significantly better deal for Vermont consumers and REV members working in the solar plus storage market than GMP’s initial proposal.

Working Group: Christopher Rauscher, Kyle Wallace, James Moore, Chris McKay, Ben Gordesky, Josh Leckey, Paul Lesure

Commissioning Deadline Extension (20-0789-INV): In January, REV requested that the PUC extend project commissioning deadlines slated to expire in 2022 for one year in light of the ongoing impacts of COVID on supply chains and labor availability. Supported by comments from numerous REV members, the PUC granted a one-year extension for commissioning deadlines for net-metering and standard-offer projects falling between January 1st and December 31st, 2022, alleviating some of the scheduling pressure created by COVID and Vermont’s short commissioning timeline.

Working Group: Martha Staskus, Leslie Caldwell

Ongoing Department of Commerce Investigation

In April, the U.S. Department of Commerce initiated an investigation into solar products produced in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam to determine whether imports from these countries are circumventing tariffs imposed on solar products produced in China. The investigation, which REV opposed, immediately disrupted the solar supply chain and posed a grave threat to the viability of the solar industry. REV immediately reached out to the state’s Congressional Delegation to communicate the threat that the investigation posed to Vermont’s economy and renewable energy goals and connected local media with REV members to raise the profile of the issue. Representative Peter Welch joined a group of 80 House Members urging the Biden Administration to find a speedy resolution to the anti-circumvention investigation. REV also encouraged members to participate in SEIA’s solar industry survey, documenting the immediate impact that the tariff had on planned projects, and helped generate support for several sign-on letters encouraging the administration to act and In response to the overwhelming evidence of the harm the investigation was causing, President Biden issued an Executive Order declaring a two-year tariff exemption on solar panels from Southeast Asia and providing new supports for American manufacturers. Eliminating the threat of retroactive tariffs provided significant relief to the supply chain problems caused by the investigation. While the DOC investigation continues ( a preliminary determination is due in August) recent reporting suggests it was based on a misrepresentation of the underlying data and that the complaint should not be sustained.

Ongoing Vermont PUC Proceedings

Net-metering Rulemaking (19-0855-RULE): At the end of April, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) issued proposed changes to Vermont net’s-metering rule, Rule 5.100. In response to the proposed changes, REV argued that given the urgency to expand renewable generation, all changes to Rule 5.100 must be evaluated based on one criterion above all others: Will the changes facilitate or impede the rapid and responsible deployment of new net-metered systems? Unfortunately, many of the proposed changes unnecessarily restrict the locations and markets available for net-metered systems without providing any clear public benefit. REV has urged the PUC to halt these changes and re-engage with stakeholders to ensure that the Rule is consistent with the need to promote renewable development in Vermont.

Working Group: Martha Staskus, Jim Merriam, Nils Behn, Kim Hayden

Interconnection Rulemaking (19-0856-RULE): The PUC issued a draft version of Rule 5.500 governing interconnection that included a requirement that all net-metered projects go through the 5.500 process, regardless of size. REV submitted comments geared toward maintaining a no-fee registration process for projects smaller than 15 kW and a simplified process for projects below 50 kW. Mirroring comments by IREC, REV also sought a more flexible process, shorter timelines, greater utility transparency, and objective interconnection criteria that would not inhibit greater renewable penetration.  Since these comments were submitted REV has participated in an additional workshop on the Rule and will be coordinating with other stakeholders to ensure changes to the rule do not increase the regulatory timeline unnecessarily.

Working Group: Jeff Forward, Jeff Clark, Kyle Wallace, Ben Gordesky

Energy Storage Rulemaking (21-3883): Act 54. Passed in June of 2021, gave the PUC the authority to “adopt and implement rules that govern the installation and operation of energy storage facilities of all sizes.” In response, the PUC initiated a new rulemaking process looking specifically at a simplified siting process for storage, the role of aggregations and interplay between owners, operators, and utilities, and the interaction of energy storage with existing resources. REV’s comments reflected that storage is an essential component of the transition to a resilient and equitable renewable energy economy and the that the development and deployment of storage options should be broadly supported. REV also supported prioritizing the development of simplified siting procedures before addressing issues related to storage aggregation to give the PUC time to better understand the implications of FERC Order 2222 which is intended to make it easier for distributed energy resources to participate in capacity, energy, and ancillary services markets. Read REV’s comments here.

Working Group: Chris McKay, Joshua Leckey, Thomas Hand, Kyle Wallace, Jake Clark

Section 248 CPG Process Rulemaking (21-0861): Last February, the PUC initiated a rulemaking case for Rule 5.400, governing the requirements and procedures for projects that require review and approval under 30 V.S.A. § 248. Initial changes to the rule would make the process costlier and more uncertain by requiring applicants to provide documentation of Act 250 permits and granting adjoining land owners party status. While the PUC’s latest draft reduces some of these requirements, REV will be submitting comments arguing that these changes are both poor policy and outside the scope of the PUC’s authority.

Electric Vehicle Rate Investigation (21-5271): Under Act 55, the PUC is required to file an annual report to the Legislature regarding progress on rates relating to the adoption of electric vehicle charging rates to help manage electric load and to encourage electric vehicle (EVs) adoption in Vermont.  REV’s comments urged Commission to establish clear and transparent metrics to evaluate each of the statutory criteria that EV rates must meet as a condition of Commission approval, especially metric demonstrating that the rate support greater adoption of EVs and do not discourage public EV charging availability.

Working Group: Leslie Caldwell

 

 

 

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