Landmark Massachusetts Net-Metering Bill Goes up in Smoke as Water-Downed Compromise Bill Is Agreed to on Last Day of Legislative Session

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An eleventh-hour compromise by the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee effectively gutted the highly publicized net metering and solar power bill, which, as proposed, was considered by many including the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) to be a boon for solar development in the nation’s fourth largest solar market in terms of both installed capacity and total jobs. The original bill, dubbed H.4185, mandated a 1.6 GW target of solar capacity by 2020, imposed a monthly minimum charge on all electric customers for distribution system maintenance, removed annual capacity restrictions on large solar projects, and transformed the current market-based SREC system to a fixed declining block grant structure (similar to a feed-in-tariff) administered by the Department of Public Utilities. In exchange, the original bill removed the cap on net-metering limits so that all excess power could be sold back to utilities at retail rates.

When the dust settled all that survived—although just barely—in the compromise bill (H.4385) is a slight raise to the net-metering cap from 3% to 5% of peak load for public installations and 3% to 4% for private installations. This increase is intended as a quick fix to the logjam of projects hitting the metering caps while still tightly controlling the overall pace of solar growth to appease utilities. With these changes, the bill was passed by the Massachusetts House and Senate and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick.  Continue reading this entry

Energy Innovation in the Northeast Boosts the Solar Market

U.S. Department of Commerce Sets Stage for New Countervailing Duties on Chinese Solar Panels

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and New Jersey are pioneering some of the nation’s most interesting developments in the retail energy space today that have important implications for the solar industry.

In Massachusetts, the state has built an energy portfolio that now supplies 9% of electrical consumption from new renewable sources, including 600MW of installed solar. The state’s goal is to reach 1,600MW by 2020. New York is home to the largest solar farm on the east coast, a 37MW solar farm on Long Island, as well as the 17MW enXco Eastern Long Island Solar Project, which consists of seven solar projects. Further, New York is planning to build a 50MW solar farm on 250 acres of a closed land fill. As the solar market grows, so does market innovation and new approaches to retail energy.

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U.S. Department of Commerce Announces New Antidumping Duties on Solar Panels from China and Taiwan

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The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) announced today its affirmative preliminary determination in the antidumping (AD) investigations of certain crystalline silicon PV products imported from the People’s Republic of China (China) and Taiwan. In general, the DOC finds AD margins when a foreign company sells a product in the U.S. at less than its fair value. Today, the DOC announced its findings of margins ranging from approximately 26% to 59%.

The DOC stated that the merchandise covered by these investigations are crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, and modules, laminates and/or panels consisting of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, whether or not partially or fully assembled into other products, including building integrated materials. For purposes of the DOC’s investigation, “subject merchandise also includes modules, laminates and/or panels assembled in the subject country consisting of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells that are completed or partially manufactured within a customs territory other than that subject country, using ingots that are manufactured in the subject country, wafers that are manufactured in the subject country, or cells where the manufacturing process begins in the subject country and is completed in a non-subject country.”

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Iowa Supreme Court Decision Boosts Renewable Energy Development

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A recent Iowa Supreme Court decision may give a boost to small-scale renewable energy development in that state. On July 11, the court issued its opinion in SZ Enterprises, LLC vs. Iowa Utilities Board (link to decision), determining that a third-party power purchase agreement for behind-the-meter generation is not subject to regulation as a “public utility” or “electric utility” under the Iowa Code.

Eagle Point Solar (Eagle Point) and the City of Dubuque had proposed to enter into a power purchase agreement, pursuant to which Eagle Point would have installed, owned and operated a solar generation system on the roof of a city-owned building. The city would buy the output of the system on a per-kWh basis for use by the city on its side of the meter.

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WTO Rules U.S. Countervailing Duties on Solar Panels Violate Global Trade Rules

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled Monday that U.S. countervailing duties imposed on a range of Chinese products, including solar panels, violated global trade rules by imposing punitive import duties.

Monday’s ruling by the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) stems from China’s August 20, 2012, request for the DSB to formally establish a panel to hear China’s grievances with the U.S.-imposed countervailing duties.   Continue reading this entry