provide funds to solar customers based on the cost, size or expected production of a customer’s renewable energy facility. Performance-based incentives provide cash payments to a system owner based on the energy generated by their renewable energy facility during a pre-determined period, and they are paid over that time period. Some states also have established FIT programs that are a type of performance-based incentive where the system owner-producer is paid a set rate for the electricity their system generates over a set period of time.
There are 41 states that have a regulatory policy known as net metering. Net metering typically allows our customers to interconnect their on-site solar generation facilities to the utility grid and offset their utility electricity purchases by receiving a bill credit at the utility’s retail rate for energy generated by their solar generation facility in excess of electric load that is exported to the grid. At the end of the billing period, the customer simply pays for the net energy used or receives a credit at the retail rate if more energy is produced than consumed. Some states require utilities to provide net metering to their customers until the total generating capacity of net metered systems exceeds a set percentage of the utilities’ aggregate customer peak demand.
Some of our solar generation facilities in Massachusetts participate in what is known as Virtual Net Metering. Virtual Net Metering in Massachusetts enables solar generation facilities to be sited remotely from the customer’s meter and still receive a credit against their monthly electricity bill. We bill the customer at a fixed rate or for a percentage of the credit they received which is derived from the G-1 electricity tariff. In addition, multiple customers may be designated as credit recipients from a renewable energy facility, provided they are all within the same Local Distribution Company service territory and load zone. The Virtual Net Metering structure provides a material electricity offtaker credit enhancement for our solar generation facilities by creating the ability to sell to hundreds of entities that are located remotely from the renewable energy facility location within the required area. The authority for Virtual Net Metering in Massachusetts was established by the Green Communities Act of 2008 and would require a change in law to repeal the program.
Many states also have adopted procurement requirements for renewable energy production. There are 29 states that have adopted a renewable portfolio standard ("RPS") that requires regulated utilities to procure a specified percentage of total electricity delivered to customers in the state from eligible renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power generation facilities, by a specified date. To prove compliance with such mandates, utilities must procure and retire RECs. System owners often are able to sell RECs to utilities directly or in REC markets.
RPS programs and targets have been a key driver of the expansion of solar and wind power and will continue to drive solar and wind power installations in many areas of the United States. In addition to the 29 states with RPS programs, eight other states have non-binding goals supporting renewable energy.
Federal government support for renewable energy
While provincial governments have jurisdiction over their respective intra-provincial electricity markets, from 2007 to 2011 the Canadian federal government supported the development of renewable energy through its ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program, which resulted in a total of 104 renewable energy facilities qualifying for funds, and will represent cash incentives of approximately CAD 1.4 billion over 14 years. It also encouraged an aggregate of approximately 4,500 MW of new renewable energy generating capacity. The program is now fully subscribed, and the Canadian federal government has not signaled an intention to renew it.
Provincial government support for renewable energy
Provincial governments have been active in promoting renewable energy in general and solar power in particular through RPS as well as through requests for proposal ("RFPs") and FIT programs for renewable energy. Several provinces are currently preparing new RFPs for renewable energy. Current provincial targets for renewable energy in those provinces with stated targets are outlined below.
Ontario. In 2009, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009 was passed into law and the Ontario Power Authority (which was merged with and continued as the Independent Electricity System Operator or “IESO,” effective January 1, 2015) launched its FIT program, which offers stable prices under long-term contracts for electricity generation from renewable energy. In November 2010, the Ontario Ministry of Energy released the draft Supply Mix Directive and Long Term Energy Plan. Ontario, one of our markets, has been a leader in supporting the development of renewable energy through the Long Term Energy Plan, which calls for 10,700 MW of renewable energy generating capacity (excluding small-scale hydroelectricity power) by 2018. The Ontario Ministry of Energy is developing the next Long-Term Energy Plan which is