Good News for Solar Energy in DC
Even though President Obama has not installed solar panels on his home in Washington, D.C. as promised, our nation's capital is making strides to boost solar energy so that other homes and businesses will be able to enjoy the benefits of solar energy. As pointed out by an Associated Press story on the Philadelphia Inquirer, the solar panels on the White House were supposed to be installed by the end of spring, but "[s]pring has come and gone, and the promised panels have yet to see the light of day."
Not deterred by the lack of progress on Pennsylvania Avenue, the City Council has been busy trying to jumpstart solar power in the District of Columbia. The Distributed Generation Amendment Act of 2011 is currently undergoing a "Second Reading" in the DC City Council, weeks after successfully passing the first reading by a unanimous vote of 13 - 0. If the amendment makes it through the second reading, it will come before DC Mayor Vincent Gray, who is widely expected to sign the Act into law.
As it currently stands, the amendment will implement three major changes. First, solar thermal systems will be eligible to compete in the SREC (solar renewable energy credit) market in DC. Second, new solar capacity requirements (‘carve-outs') for DC will be implemented - the most notable being a 2.5 percent requirement in solar PV and thermal by 2020, up from the just 0.4 percent requirement in place now. Third, the amendment will put into place a system size cap stating that all solar projects be met by acquisition of systems no larger than 5 MW. Additionally, all systems must be sited within District of Columbia boundaries. The full bill text can be seen here.
This news is interesting, in that it comes on the heels of the SREC market depression in DC. As referenced in this April 2011 SolarTown news article, SREC prices in DC have fallen as much as 50 to 70 percent, meaning that companies are receiving less of an incentive for meeting renewable energy quotas. A major contributing factor is that DC has no requirements for energy suppliers to purchase SRECs locally. The Distributed Generation Amendment Act of 2011 aims to plug this hole by limiting SREC purchase to only those in DC in hopes of containing demand for SRECs to DC energy suppliers only.
If passed, the bill will take concrete steps to address the oversupply of solar energy in the DC market as a result of tumbling SREC prices. It already has support among numerous stakeholders in the District because of its potential to catalyze the creation of green energy for DC residents, provide a localized source of energy, and create jobs for a city with a 9.6 percent unemployment rate as of April 2011. The status of the bill can be tracked at the DC Council website and SolarTown will continue reporting on the bill's status as important developments arise.