Aiming to be a leader in clean energy access, utility regulators in Maryland today voted to advance a set of forward-thinking proposed policies that will help remove barriers to renewable energy under the state’s new community solar initiative. The Maryland Public Service Commission today proposed draft regulations to guide the state’s three year community solar pilot project. Included in these regulations are the following key policies:
- 30 percent of the dedicated community solar capacity set aside for low and moderate income projects, ensuring that communities of all income levels will have the opportunity to participate and reap the benefits of solar energy.
- Full retail rate credit for subscribed solar energy, ensuring that community solar participants receive the same economic benefits as traditional net metering customers.
- Community solar project development set aside at brownfield sites, encouraging a positive use of environmentally-damaged property.
Community solar projects, sometimes called community solar gardens, expand access to renewable energy by allowing multiple people to invest in or subscribe to a solar energy project and offset a portion of their electric bill from the energy generated through a credit. Projects could be sited in a variety of places, like the roof of an apartment building, a community center, a church or even in an open field. More than 50 community renewable energy projects are currently operating in 17 states.
In 2015, Earthjustice partnered with a coalition of community and solar industry groups to pass bipartisan legislation making the Maryland Community Solar Pilot Project possible. On behalf of Maryland Solar United Neighborhoods (MD SUN), Earthjustice actively participated in the community solar rule making process and made several recommendations that were ultimately adopted by the Commission.
"The policies proposed today will make clean energy solutions available to a greater number of Marylanders and help regulators across the country learn more about the great potential of community solar. Done the right way, community solar projects strengthen communities, clean up our air, speed our transition to 100 percent renewable energy—all while keeping utility bills affordable," said Susan Stevens Miller, Staff Attorney in Earthjustice’s Clean Energy Program. "We welcome the willingness of the members of Maryland’s Public Service Commission to try new ideas and help lead the way for their counterparts across the country."
Earthjustice and MD SUN will remain involved in the process going forward to ensure that the gains achieved by the regulations are reflected in the implementation process.
"Today the Commission put us on the right path to ensuring all Marylanders can benefit from solar energy," said Corey Ramsden, MD SUN Program Director. "We are encouraged that these rules ensure a fair value for community solar, as that will help expand solar access throughout the state."