Connecticut uncaps solar power opportunity


Connecticut uncaps solar power opportunity

Connecticut has fully embraced the need to respond comprehensively to the environmental threats posed by global warming. A 2010 report released by the Adaptation Subcommittee to the Governor’s Steering committee on Climate Change found that at least four of the state’s foundational aspects would be significantly impacted by ongoing global warming trends, including the agriculture industry (most threatened include maple syrup, dairy, shellfish and apple/pear production), natural resources (including floodplains and tidal areas), infrastructure (dams, levees, transportation, etc.) and public health (including air quality, heat ailments and diseases).

The report concludes that “adaptation planning (to address global warming) is prudent and necessary to ensure the future viability of the … environs and … the safety of the public.”

As a resident of Connecticut, you likely have experienced many, if not all, of these aspects, so the report — and the state’s response to it — should be important to you.

The report has guided the state in developing policies to address the concerns it raises. In addition to improving the state’s capacity to protect itself from climate related adversity, the legislature adopted the proactive requirement that Connecticut generate as much as 23 percent of its energy from renewable resources, including solar, by the year 2020. At present, the state obtains almost half of its electric supply from nuclear energy, but only 3.5 percent from renewables. The balance is supplied by natural gas.

Connecticut elected to view the challenge as an opportunity and tied the advancement of the renewable energy industry to its future economic growth. It created the “Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority” (CEFIA) to issue permits for and oversee renewable energy installations across the state, leveraging private and public resources to scale-up clean energy deployment. The solar industry has boomed in response. In 2014, Connecticut solar companies employed more than 1,600 people throughout the value chain, who sold, managed or installed 45 megawatts (MW) of solar electric capacity. The 45 MW were added to the 102 MW previously installed, making Connecticut the 16th ranked state in the nation for solar electric capacity. Just in 2014, more than $121 million dollars were invested in solar installations in the state.

Some of the solar power converts might surprise you: Walmart, Kohl’s, Staples, Target and Walgreens all have gone solar, and IKEA installed one of the largest corporate systems in the state, generating 940kW of solar capacity at their New Haven location.

Residents and businesses are reaping the benefits of the growth of the solar industry. The price for an installed solar electric system has dropped 12 percent from 2013, and 45 percent from 2010, and energy credits, tax incentives and rebates have reduced the costs even more. In the first five steps of the Residential Solar Investment Program, a total of 7,761 applications to install solar arrays were approved, which equaled a total incentive amount of more than $62 million dollars.

Energy credits

Net Metering:

Connecticut is unique in that it does not cap the capacity of net-metered systems within a utility’s territory. Any solarized customer’s “net excess generation” during a monthly billing cycle is carried over as a credit into the next month. After 12 monthly cycles, the solarized customer receives a reimbursement based on a time-of-use/generation basis. This significantly increases the financial benefits of net metering for solar electric system owners.

Renewable Energy Credits (REC):

The “Mass Energy Renewable Energy Certificate Incentive” program is part of the Energy Consumers Alliance of New England (ECANE), which purchases solar generated RECs from residents, businesses, non-profits, schools and industrial sectors at 3 cents/kWh, for a period of three years.

Tax incentives

Federal:

The federal government currently offers tax credits that amount to 30 percent of the cost of the system, so long as it provides the electricity for the dwelling and meets fire and electrical codes. The credit is also applicable to the solar panel portion of solar fans. Credits are available for solar electric systems installed in homes (primary and secondary, but not rental) and businesses that are “placed in service” between January 2006 and Dec. 31, 2016. Condominiums and cooperative apartment buildings can claim the incentive if their corporate entity installs the system, and each member accesses the service. Then each member can claim the credit on their personal tax documents. Congress has the opportunity to renew the credits after 2016.

State:

Connecticut offers a property tax exemption for solar electric installations that serve single family homes or multifamily units that include up to four units. It also offers a “sales and use” tax exemption for solar energy equipment, which includes both the equipment itself and the cost of labor to install it.

Rebates

Connecticut offers a rebate of $1.75/Watt for the first 5kW, and $1.25/Watt up to an additional 5kW. To qualify for the rebate, each applicant must participate in the Clean Energy Efficiency Fund’s “Home Energy Solutions” (HES), which requires a home energy audit to be done within three years of the application.

It’s clear that Connecticut is serious about reducing its impact on the environment through innovative management of its natural resources. As a Connecticut resident, you are eligible to benefit from the state’s vision by investing in your own solar electric system.

RGS Energy, founded in 1978, was the first solar energy system provider and installer in the United States. To learn how solar could lower your electric bills and to get a free quote, visit RGSEnergy.com.

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