PURPA & Community Solar panel coverage at SPI 2017

Written By: Katherine Demetre
September 12, 2017

PurpaSPI

Stratton had the opportunity to listen in on insightful panel discussions at the Solar Power International conference, held in Las Vegas, NV from September 10th-13th, 2017.

One of the panels we covered discussed PURPA. The panel, PURPA Reign, focused what PURPA is, what it does and why it solar matters to solar energy. We heard from a diverse set of speakers who addressed the challenges and opportunities of the policy for solar. They also discussed relevant federal efforts and actions impacting PURPA going forward.

An attendee asked a great question, “Why is PURPA important to the solar industry?” during the panel. Todd Glass, partner at Wilson Sonsini, responded:

One is we need market access. Without PURPA, the utilities will not buy from small solar projects. They would prefer not to… They would much rather buy from 100MW IPP that’s owned by NextEra or something like that, they would be much happier buying for that than the scruffy 8MW project that’s located on a distribution grid somewhere. They just prefer not to. So one is getting down to compete and generation. The second, I’d say, and this is less recognized, is that for the financing of these projects, PURPA is a vital backstock, so you know there is a lot of corporate PPAs that are being executed now, CCAs in California and all that, sometimes those people do not follow through. PURPA tells our financiers that, sure you’re a buying a generation asset but if you need to, you can always sell at least at the avoided cost on a short term basis and that’s how you can do it.

Another panel, Bringing Community Solar to C&I Buyers, focused on the new and interesting challenges that the community solar sector faces while expanding their business model to C&I customers. The session taught participants key considerations for designing and pricing community solar programs for the new customer segment. The panel also discussed participation drivers and strategies for meeting C&I customer expectations.

In response to the question “What is the appeal of community shared solar versus green power solutions?”, Hannah Masterjohn, Vice President of Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Clean Energy Collective, commented:

Prior to the recent options for renewable energy tariffs, that’s all, I think, relatively recent and developed quite quickly. Before that, really when we talked about other green power solutions, that was green pricing programs and where you were paying a premium for wind directs and that’s great, but the history shows that the market for that is pretty limited, they just don’t want to pay more, so I think the very obvious appeal is that community solar programs are structured to save customers money.

Stratton also had the opportunity to sit down with thought leaders and decision makers at Solar Power International 2017 for our One Minute Video Interviews. Click here to view for our exclusive video interviews.