The Interstate Renewable Energy Council recently released its revised Shared Solar Scorecard, ranking Colorado’s current community solar gardens program as a “B”. Could program changes currently under consideration by the Public Utilities Commission place Colorado’s program on the A-list?
Colorado is taking steps to regain its place on the community solar program leaderboard. On the heels of legislation passed in 2019 (Hansen, HB-1003), the Public Utilities Commission has been considering program rule changes above and beyond those mandated by the state’s Community Solar Modernization Act. After several rounds of comment, Vote Solar and many other stakeholders are patiently waiting for the revised rules from the Commission. We expect these revised rules to expand Colorado’s community solar program to include more projects and serve more low-income families.
Vote Solar, among several other interested parties, took the opportunity to comment on program rules to promote participation by low-income households, residential, small commercial and agricultural customers. We were thrilled to see the Commission consider carveouts for residential, agricultural, and small commercial customers. We hope to see those small customer mandates in the revised rules as long as adders or incentives are provided to cover the additional cost of enrolling and managing these customers.
But Colorado can do more to specifically serve low-income families. In our comments, we also advocated for Colorado’s program to serve a greater percentage of low-income customers and to use incentives to cover the added cost of education and enrollment. We’re confident these changes will mean more Colorado families are able to benefit from clean energy savings.
Most interestingly, the Commission sought comments on a new “Open Market CSG Program” or “M-CSG”. Vote Solar was one of the parties suggesting in Proceeding No. 19R-0096E that rules allowing for market-based would be beneficial and avoid artificial constraints on the number of community solar projects serving Coloradans. Proponents of a market-based CSG program affirm that this program rule change would allow for robust project development to meet the state’s renewable distributed generation goal for investor-owned utilities.
Through this process, Colorado has shown that regular program review and adjustment is sometimes necessary to meet public policy goals and consumer demand. If the Commission adopts these changes, Colorado will make important strides to align itself with other state’s community solar programs that guarantee access for all residential customers, low-income households and local businesses. These changes are consistent with many of the recommendations in the Low Income Solar Policy Guide and will bump Colorado up on the leaderboard of programs meaningfully serving low-income individuals.