Monday, June 24, 2013

Utilities Fight 3rd Party Solar Ownership Deals But Not Solar

Disputes over the use of small-scale solar power are flaring across the nation, with utilities squaring off against solar-energy marketers over rules for the growing technology.  Utilities have sought to cut what they claim are unfairly high payments they are required to make to owners of homes or larger buildings with solar systems.

At issue is whether solar-system marketers can sell electricity in territories where local utilities have exclusive rights to customers. Such an arrangement isn't allowed or is under dispute in many states, limiting solar firms to sales of panels to homeowners and businesses.

Utilities are proponents of renewable energy if they own the energy assets and the electrons flow through their grid and they can bill you.

In March, an Iowa District Court judge said Eagle Point, an 18-employee company, could sign power-purchase contracts in the Dubuque territory of Alliant Energy Corp., one of the state's largest utilities. Under the disputed deal, Eagle Point would own solar panels on the roof of a Dubuque municipal building and sell power to the city at a rate similar to Alliant's.
The disputed Dubuque deal employed a "third party" ownership arrangement, in which a rooftop solar system is owned by someone other than the property owner. Solar deals using that structure are growing in popularity—for both residential and commercial properties—because they allow building landlords or homeowners to tap into solar power without a significant upfront investment.

Alliant says the ruling contradicts Iowa's policy of not allowing competition for electricity service. Eagle Point is selling energy to one of Alliant Energy Corp's customers. (WSJ, 6/23/2013)

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