Feed-in tariff report highlights solar funding gap
By Lee van der Voo, Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
A first review of Oregon's pilot feed-in-tariff program was issued by the Oregon Public Utility Commission last week, part of required biannual reporting that indicates the program will continue for another two years, unchanged.
That's a win for solar enthusiasts who want more exploration of solar's potential in Oregon, and more results from a program that is essentially teasing out the prices that the consumer market for solar will bear.
Looking ahead, however, the program needs more information about the impact of the feed-in tariff on utility rates — impacts that so far surpass forecasts initially put forth by utilities and could threaten the program. Also an open question is whether Oregon will develop an incentive program that fosters development of large solar systems, considered by some to be essential to driving down costs across the solar industry.
"There's a funding gap there and neither the feed-in tarrif nor the (Business Energy Tax Credit), in its current form, are really satisfying," said Glenn Montgomery, executive director of the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association.
The Oregon Legislature authorized the feed-in tariff in 2009 as a five-year pilot program. It's intended to promote solar development by offering payments for solar power, made by participating utilities to the owners of new solar energy systems.
So far, the program has proved popular with consumers. Now offering rates between 47 cents and 58 cents per kilowatt-hour, it has subscribed capacity to 570 new solar systems to date. All but three were smaller than 100 kilowatts in capacity.
Yet, according to Montgomery, it will be large solar installations that will drive the costs of solar installations down market wide.
Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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