Last week, the South Carolina Public Service Commission (SC PSC) accepted petitions by SACE and other parties to reconsider and rehear key aspects of their decision from last year that would have stifled solar energy development in the state. "At this point, we're cautiously optimistic."Bryan Jacob | January 9, 2020
Last week, the South Carolina Public Service Commission (SC PSC) accepted petitions by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and other parties to reconsider and rehear key aspects of their decision from last year that would have stifled solar energy development in the state.
SACE’s Solar Program Director, Bryan Jacob said “We’re pleased that the Commission realized the original order wasn’t entirely consistent with the Energy Freedom Act, and that they decided to take another look at the evidence in the record. They’ve also allocated time for an additional hearing on one additional topic [contract duration]. At this point, we’re cautiously optimistic.”
After a unanimous vote on January 3, the Commission issued a directive that raised the compensation solar developers will earn for the energy and capacity their projects contribute to Dominion’s electricity system. The original values from November would have made Dominion’s territory in South Carolina one of the worst markets for solar in the country. In addition, this new directive reduced an interim fee the utility will charge developers for integrating energy resources with potentially variable output.
SACE recommendations, pending issues
SACE had recommended that the Variable Integration Charge (VIC) remain at zero until the utility addressed flaws in the analysis. Rather than negating the charge entirely, the Commission reduced the VIC from $2.29/MWh to $0.96/MWh as recommended by one of the other expert witnesses. This interim value will be subject to “true-up” (or down) once a proper integration study is performed. The uncertainty associated with this true-up may still prove problematic for developers trying to secure financing for projects.
But the biggest issue still pending, in this case, is how long the contracts need to be for them to be financeable. The Energy Freedom Act authorized the Commission to approve contract terms longer than ten years, but the original order did not do that. The Commission has now voted in favor of rehearing evidence regarding contract length for these Purchased Power Agreements (PPAs).
Various media outlets have been covering this development, including:
The State, Sammy Fretwell
Utility Dive, Catherine Morehouse
PV Magazine, Tim Sylvia
Rehearing on the contract tenor should take place early next month. Stay tuned as the story unfolds.