Lawmakers want more solar farms in Delaware (Sarah Gamard)

News Journal report: Sen. Harris McDowell, chair of the Senate Energy Committee, has announced that he plans to introduce a bill with at least 14 co-sponsors to raise the Renewable Portfolio Standard target from 25% in 2025 to 40% by 2035 (a 60% increase). Among other changes, this bill would encourage DE local government units to invest in solar farms, earn “Community Solar Energy Credits” by selling the electric power produced, and – according to a Senate news release – use the credits to lower residents’ utility bills.

Sen. McDowell (who will retire at the end of the current legislative session) is quoted as follows: "This is pioneering legislation that brings the sun’s energy directly to the people. Best of all, under this act, all who opt in will pay lower electricity rates."

The draft bill (19 pages, dated 4/21/19) was posted with the News Journal story. Here’s are some features that we noted on a quick reading:

Synopsis: This bill is intended to advance sustainable energy goals and initiatives in Delaware and to restore Delaware as a leader in renewable, sustainable energy. First, this Act builds on the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Act, which was first enacted into law in 2005, by setting new standards for the minimum percentage of electric energy sales from eligible energy resources and solar photovoltaics. Second, this bill contains the “Community Sustainable Energy Authorities Act,” which authorizes municipalities, towns, and counties and the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility to create authorities to develop, promote, and operate community sustainable energy projects.

(1) The bill recites approval by 2/3 of the members of each house of the General Assembly, which is consistent with the constitutional requirement for tax increases and would require at least some bipartisan support.

(2) Current RPS targets would be followed until 2025, when they would reach a level of 25% for renewable energy (including solar) and at least 3.5% for solar. However, a new sub-target (includible in solar) would be established for community solar, e.g., 0.4% by 2025. After 2025, the RPS targets would be raised in yearly increments to the 2035 targets for “renewable energy” (40% including solar), solar (at least 10% including community solar), and community solar (at least 3.5%).

(3) Current statutory provisions authorizing an administrative freeze in the phase-in of the RPS targets under certain circumstances iwould be repealed.

(4) The provisions re the new community solar program are quite involved, and would seemingly provide plenty of opportunity for administrative action to favor selected factions or interest groups.

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