Posts Tagged ‘solar renewable energy credits’

Jessica Robbins

Sol Systems Completes the Massachusetts Solar Market’s First SREC II Transaction

Sol Systems is the first to close a prepaid SREC contract in Massachusetts' nascent SREC II market.

Sol Systems is the first to close a prepaid SREC contract in Massachusetts’ nascent SREC II market.

Sol Systems is pleased to be the first to close a transaction in solar renewable energy credit (SREC) II, the newest iteration of the Massachusetts solar market. Under this agreement, Sol Systems will provide solar project financing via a prepaid SREC contract to EthoSolar, an Ontario-based solar power provider with over 600 systems installed in North America, for a 150 kilowatt (kW) solar energy project.

This landmark deal is the first prepaid SREC contract in the nascent Massachusetts SREC-II market, which will be promulgated on April 25. Sol Systems provided a Sol Upfront contract, issuing pre-payment to EthoSolar’s client for generation of SRECs in 2014 and 2015; this capital was key in pushing the project over the finish line in light of a tight deadline.

“Combining an upfront sale of a percentage of SRECS with other traditional and nontraditional solutions allowed us to negotiate an attractive financing solution from a local bank that has our client in the black from day one on this project. Sol Systems brought creativity and value that was outside the box,” said Ethan DeSota of EthoSolar.

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Anna Noucas

Massachusetts Finalizes SREC-II Program: Here’s What You Can Expect

The Massachusetts DOER expects the SREC-II Program to become effective late in April.

Massachusetts DOER expects the SREC-II Program to become effective late in April.

On April 11th, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) announced that they have officially filed the final revisions for the SREC-II program with the Secretary of State’s office.  These final revisions will go into effect on April 25, 2014 once the rules have been promulgated.

To qualify for SREC-I, all systems less than 100 kW must both submit an application and demonstrate that they have been authorized to interconnect by April 25th.  For systems larger than 100 kW,  projects may receive an extension beyond June 30, 2014 only if the project can demonstrate that interconnection depends only on receipt of authorization to interconnect and such receipt is delayed only by the local distribution company or due to remaining steps required by other parties for safe and reliable interconnection. In addition, the DOER announced that they will be using a new online registration platform for all SREC II applications.  This new platform and application process will be made available to the public on May 6th.
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Daniel Watson

Sol Systems Speaks at Solar Power Finance and Investment Summit in San Diego

Sol Systems’ CEO Yuri Horwitz, CFO George Ashton, and other members of the team traveled to the Solar Power Finance and Investment Summit in San Diego, California this week. As experts in solar project finance, both of Sol Systems’ co-founders spoke at this conference: George spoke on a panel on matching developer desires with their financing needs, and  Yuri spoke on project economic viability and deal structuring, especially as they are related to tax equity investment.  Yuri also spoke on project underwriting.

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To date, Sol Systems has facilitated financing for approximately 85 MW of solar energy projects through its tax equity, debt, take-out financing, and SREC portfolio management services. To meet with Sol Systems at a future conference, please visit our events page.

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Sara Rafalson

Why the New Jersey Solar Market Just Got Hot Again

New Jersey SREC pricing is on the uptick.

New Jersey SREC pricing is on the uptick. Here’s why we think the New Jersey solar market is heating up.

New Jersey has long been a cautionary tale of the boom and bust cycles of solar renewable energy credit (SREC) programs. In 2009, New Jersey’s SREC values were close to $700 per megawatt hour. Then, in fall 2012, prices dipped to the $70 mark, demonstrating the true volatility of SREC markets. However, a recent rebound in SREC prices offers owners several profitable ways to profit from their SRECs.

After a lull period, the New Jersey SREC prices have ticked up once again. No, they are not back at $700 (and likely will never be again). However, we have traded as high as a healthy $170 per SREC in the last month on behalf of our SREC portfolio management clients.

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Daniel Watson

New Jersey’s PSE&G’s Second Solar Loan III Solicitation is Coming. Here’s What You Need to Know.

The Public Service Electric and Gas Company of New Jersey (PSE&G) will begin accepting applications in less than a month, on February 25, for its Solar Loan program. While no major changes have occurred since the first solicitation late last year, data is now available on pricing from the first round of applications and awards.

The first solicitation of New Jersey’s PSE&G Solar Loan III program began last year and closed the period on November 12th, 2013.  The program provides loans that make up significant portions of project construction costs (see an example here). The loans can be repaid through SRECs, with payment plans set at the closing of the loan. Cash can also be used to pay in case of low production. Once the loan has been paid in full, any SRECs produced thereafter belong to the owner of the system. The following capacities are available per each program segment:

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Keith Glassbrook

Sol Systems Welcomes Bridget Callahan

Sol Systems Welcomes Bridget Callahan

Sol Systems Welcomes Bridget Callahan to help with the firm’s SREC operations and analytics.

Sol Systems is continuing to expand to accommodate its rapid business growth. This week, Sol Systems is proud to announce the arrival of our new SREC Operations Analyst, Bridget. Welcome to the team, Bridget.

Bridget Callahan joins Sol Systems after graduating from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining Sol Systems, Ms. Callahan worked with the State of Michigan, as well as with several environmental non-profit organizations. As SREC Operations Analyst, Ms. Callahan answers inquiries for Sol Systems’ 4,000 person customer network, manages customer meter readings and production monitoring, conducts policy research and analysis, and interacts with the various public utilities commissions for SREC registrations. She holds a Bachelor in Arts in Public Policy from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, with a concentration in environmental policy.

At Sol Systems, our biggest asset is our team, and we will continue to hire sharp, passionate team members. We are currently hiring for a Controller. To learn more about careers with Sol Systems, please visit our careers page.

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Amber Rivera

Updates to the Massachusetts 400-MW Solar Carve Out Program that You Didn’t Hear at the June Stakeholder Meeting

In the excitement of the recent stakeholder meeting that the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) held on June 7, which focused on the emergency regulation to address the over-subscription of the 400-MW solar carve-out program and the proposed policy for the post-400 MW program, some important updates to the current 400-MW program have not received due attention. As of June 7, 2013, the proposed changes to the 225 CMR 14.00 regulation went into effect, with no changes made to the red line version that the DOER proposed to the House at the end of April. Here, we summarize some of the most pertinent changes relevant to solar developers and investors who operate in the Massachusetts market.

Adjustment to the Rules of the Solar Credit Clearinghouse Auction

The updated regulation now states that “Any entity that owns Solar Carve-Out Renewable Attributes is eligible to make deposits” of SRECs into the annual July auction run by the DOER. Previously, the DOER restricted the type of entity who could deposit SRECs to only system owners or operators; essentially, unless you were the first entity to receive the SREC into your NEPOOL account following generation, you were excluded from the auction. Now, you simply must have possession of an SREC in your NEPOOL account to participate in the auction. This change will open the auction up to a much larger number of participants, and may result in a greater number of SRECs being deposited into the auction. The 2013 auction has been closed to further deposits, and will begin with the first round on Friday, July 26th.

Prior to the revisions to the regulation, market participants generally understood that any SRECs that do not clear in the first, second, or third rounds of the auction and thus re-mint with a 3-year shelf life are not eligible to be placed into future years’ auctions. The DOER has inserted a clause into the regulation that explicitly states this rule, which was not formally included prior to the revision.

10-Year Opt-In Term for the 400 MW Program

The revised regulation removes the control mechanism previously in place for the length of the Opt-In Term. Before this change, the DOER was mandated to reduce or increase the original Opt-In Term set at 40 quarters in 2010, as follows:

  • Each time the number of SRECs deposited into the annual auction reached 10 percent of the current year’s compliance obligation, the Opt-In Term assigned to projects that qualified for the 400-MW carve-out program following the annual announcement at the end of July would be reduced by four quarters
  • Each time the amount of compliance obligation met with ACP payments reached 10 percent of the current year’s compliance obligation, the Opt-In Term assigned to projects that qualified for the 400-MW carve-out program following the annual announcement at the end of July would be increased by four quarters

In addition, the regulation set bands around this mechanism; the Opt-In Term could not be reduced by more than eight quarters in any given year, and for 2010-2016 there was a minimum Opt-In Term of five years.

The revised regulation fixes the Opt-In Term to 40 quarters (10 years), for all projects, regardless of whether they come online during a period of oversupply or under supply in the market. This is good news for commercial project developers and financiers, and for homeowners, as it removes the difficulty of trying to predict when a reduction in the Opt-In Term may occur, the result of which would be decreased revenue and a longer payback timeline on the system.

Increase to the SREC Demand in 2013

The DOER has increased the Total Compliance Obligation for the 2013 compliance year, from 135,495 MWh, or SRECs, to 189,297 MWh/SRECs. The increase is thanks to the removal of the component of the compliance obligation formula that subtracted the MWh volume of compliance met with ACP payments from two years prior. This adjustment exemplifies the DOER’s commitment to supporting SREC prices; however, even with this increase the market will be oversupplied in 2013 due to the substantial acceleration of solar installation in Massachusetts in 2012 and the first quarter of 2013.

Timeline and Queue for Applications to Get Into the Second Solar Carve-Out Program

The regulation has been revised to begin to handle the transition between the first and second solar carve-out programs. The DOER has created a new concept, the Assurance of Qualification, which will in a way act as a soft Statement of Qualification until the rules for applying into the second program are drafted, approved, and implemented. In other words, projects that do not qualify for the first program, assuming they meet the requirements specified in the regulation and in the Assurance of Qualification Guidelines, will be given assurance by the DOER that they will be eligible to produce SRECs in the second program.

In order to encourage complete and accurate applications, the DOER will introduce a new timeline for the expiration of a Statement of Qualification issued to a project. The details have not been finalized, but are expected to be released in the final version of the Assurance of Qualification Guidelines.

A Lot of DOER Tinkering but Progress in the MA Solar Market

Each of these changes will help to provide clarity for the market in the coming years, for both the current program and the post-400 MW program. The proposed policy for the second solar carve-out program, although not finalized, has hopefully provided comfort, if not certainty, to developers and project owners on how to apply and become qualified for the next program, so that they can continue to develop projects with confidence.

About Sol Systems

Sol Systems is a boutique financial services firm that offers investor clients direct access to the renewable energy asset class and provides developers with sophisticated project financing solutions. Founded in 2008, Sol Systems focuses on meeting the most critical needs of the industry, including SREC monetization, capital placement, tax equity, and New Market Tax Credits. To date, the company has arranged financing for thousands of projects and facilitated hundreds of millions in investment on behalf of Fortune 100 companies, private equity, family offices and individuals.

For more information, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

Anna Noucas

Legislation Introduced in 2013 to Increase the Pennsylvania Solar Carve-Out

On February 25, 2013, Representative Greg Vitali introduced House Bill (HB) 100 to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, legislation that would amend the Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards. HB 100 was later referred to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and hearing has not yet been scheduled. If passed, HB 100 would take steps to revive the suffering PA SREC market. Similar legislation (HB 1580 and SB 1350) was introduced to the PA legislature in 2012; however, neither of these bills made significant progress in the General Assembly.

The original Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act currently requires Pennsylvania’s electric utilities to obtain eight percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021, and of that eight percent, 0.5 percent of their power must be generated by solar energy systems.

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Amber Rivera

Future of Massachusetts Solar – After the 400 MW Program Cap

Sol Systems met with solar developers, investors, and policymakers to discuss potential changes to the Massachusetts SREC market.

Sol Systems met with solar developers, investors, and policymakers to discuss potential changes to the Massachusetts SREC market.

Investors, developers, SREC aggregators, and other stakeholders in the Massachusetts solar market gathered at the State House today for meetings relating to the state’s RPS Solar Carve-Out Program. The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) sought public comment for two pivotal changes to the solar policy regime currently underway—the establishment of a post-400 MW solar program, and the ongoing rulemaking to address changes to regulation 225 CMR 14.00.

Policymakers noted the success of the Solar Carve-Out program in “aggressively growing solar installation and businesses in Massachusetts”, pointing to the rapid pace at which the state has neared Governor Deval Patrick’s goal of 250 megawatts of solar capacity by 2017. The latest DOER data from this month shows nearly 215 megawatts of solar capacity qualifying for the Solar Carve-Out Program, 195 megawatts of which is already operational. With this pace of growth, everyone is asking, “What will happen to incentives for solar development once current capacity meets the 400 megawatt cap of the Solar Carve-Out Program?”

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Anna Noucas

Massachusetts DOER Announces Solar Policy Stakeholder Meetings

On February 22, the DOER announced their intent to actively develop policy to maintain the growth of the solar PV market in Massachusetts, beyond the 400 MW cap of the current RPS Solar Carve-Out.  The DOER released a statement Wednesday, March 13  providing further notice to all stakeholders of two public meetings that will take place this Friday, March 22.

At a morning stakeholder meeting, the DOER will unveil the policy objectives and potential changes under consideration for a post-400 MW solar policy in Massachusetts. The meeting will give market participants a chance to provide comments ahead of any final decision on this key policy. A legislative public hearing will follow in the afternoon, to separately address the on-going rulemaking of the 225 CMR 14.00 regulation of the current Solar Carve-Out Program.

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Anna Noucas

Community Solar Bill Reintroduced to the DC Council

The DC Council has reintroduced the Community Solar Bill which would allow for anyone to reap the energy benefits associated with owning a solar installation.

The DC Council has reintroduced the Community Solar Bill which would allow for anyone to reap the energy benefits associated with owning a solar installation.

In January, Councilmembers Alexander, Cheh, Bonds, Grosso, Barry and Wells co-introduced the Community Renewables Energy Act of 2013 (B20-0057).

The Community Renewables Energy Act of 2012 (B19-0715), the 2012 version of B20-0057, was originally circulated in early 2012.  A hearing followed in the middle of June 2012, where Sol Systems Chief Business Officer, Sudha Gollapudi, testified in support of the legislation.  The hearing resulted in a working group dedicated to finding an effective way to implement the community solar bill.  The working group was unable to complete its work during last year’s legislative session, and thus the bill was reintroduced in 2013.

The Community Renewables Energy Act of 2013 is almost identical to the 2012 version.  Many DC residents are unable to use solar energy because they are renters, or they own a property that is not ideal for a solar installation.  With these restrictions, a large portion of DC residents do not have the ability to participate in the solar industry.  The legislation would allow for any and all DC residents to purchase a share in a community solar system located anywhere in DC and receive credit for solar electricity from that system to offset their own utility bill in the form of virtual net metering.  This form of virtual net metering would allow for anyone to reap the energy benefits associated with owning a solar installation.

The re-introduction of this bill to the DC Council for the 2013 legislative session illustrates the Council’s commitment to expanding access to solar for all DC residents.  Furthermore, the passage of the Community Solar Act would help the District to achieve its aggressive solar carve-out requirements by installing a great capacity of solar.

Developers or investors interested in commercial scale project finance within the District should contact our project finance team at info@solmarket.com.  In addition to project financing services, Sol Systems currently offers three SREC solutions for photovoltaic and solar thermal systems located in the District: Sol Annuity, Sol Brokerage, and Sol Upfront.  Please email info@solsystemscompany.com for more information.

Sol Systems will continue to track the progress of this bill.  Please check out our blog for further updates.

About Sol Systems

Sol Systems is a boutique financial services firm that offers investor clients direct access  to the renewable energy asset class and provides developers with sophisticated project financing solutions.  Founded in 2008, Sol Systems focuses on meeting the most critical needs of the industry, including SREC monetization, capital placement, tax equity, and New Market Tax Credits.  To date, the company has arranged financing for thousands of projects and facilitated hundreds of millions in investment on behalf of Fortune 100 companies, private equity, family offices and individuals.

Anna Noucas

PUCO Releases New Generation Start Date Eligibility

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently ruled on changing the generation start date for all eligible renewable energy resource generating facilities submitted for approval to the PUCO in 2013.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently ruled on changing the generation start date for all eligible renewable energy resource generating facilities submitted for approval to the PUCO in 2013.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently ruled on changing the generation start date for all eligible renewable energy resource generating facilities submitted for approval to the PUCO in 2013.  For all applications received after December 31, 2012, all facilities submitted to the PUCO for approval will have a generation start date of the date the application was filed with the PUCO.

Credit will not be given for generation that occurred before the date of the facility’s application for certification as an eligible Ohio renewable energy resource generating facility. Facility owner’s will be able to report generation from the date of application for Ohio’s purposes, unless the facility is not yet online, in which case the facility owner can begin reporting from the in-service date.

Previously, solar facilities submitted to the PUCO for approval would receive a generation start date beginning on the date the application for the system was approved by the PUCO (which is 61 days after the date filed), or a facility could receive retroactive credit back to the date the facility began reporting so long as there was supporting documentation from a remote monitoring system.  Solar facilities will no longer be able to submit remote monitoring information or documentation to the PUCO for retroactive credit.

This generation start date change will only affect facilities located in OH and adjacent states. Sol Systems has reviewed these generation start date changes and is making the necessary changes to our registration service to allow for timely registration of solar facilities to the PUCO.  Please continue to follow our blog for any further updates to the registrations process.

About Sol Systems

Sol Systems is a solar finance firm and a leader in financial innovation in the renewable energy industry.  Since its inception in 2008, Sol Systems has partnered with 350 solar installers and developers to bring over 3,000 solar projects from conception to completion by offering innovative financing solutions for residential, commercial, and utility-scale projects.

Sol Systems’ financing programs catalyze investments for a broad set of solar projects by simplifying their origination, diligence, and financing processes.  Developers seeking financing for solar projects can access over $2.5 billion in capital through the Sol Systems investor network.

In addition to providing financing, Sol Systems also offers project due diligence, deal structuring, and asset management services – all designed to reduce overhead and transaction costs and quicken project development timelines.

For more information, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

Sol Systems Issues Call for Solar Projects – New Project Finance Platform Now Has $400 Million in Available Funding

Sol Systems Issues Call for Solar Projects – New Project Finance Platform Now Has $400 Million in Available Funding

Washington, DC: September 14, 2011 – Less than two weeks after launch, Sol Systems is proud to announce that its new solar finance platform, SolMarket, has increased from $350 million in available investment dollars to $400 million.  In addition, reception by solar installers and developers across the country has been overwhelmingly positive.  SolMarket’s network now includes over 180 companies and 300 users.

SolMarket is a financing platform that will catalyze investment in solar energy projects nationwide by transforming how solar projects are financed.  SolMarket provides investors and developers with the tools they need to efficiently originate, evaluate, finance, and construct renewable energy projects.  It provides a standardized origination platform, a document library, modeling software, and a standardized document suite.  SolMarket will also offer developers group purchase discounts for solar modules and other equipment.  There are no costs for developers to participate in SolMarket.

“We talk to hundreds of solar developers about prospective commercial and utility-scale projects, and unfortunately, many of these solar projects are never built due to an inability to efficiently locate financing,” said Yuri Horwitz, CEO of Sol Systems.  “We have created SolMarket to help drive efficiencies into the solar market and connect investors and developers effectively.  SolMarket will reduce the cost of financing transactions and enhance the tempo of solar project development.”

SolMarket is currently seeking projects ranging from 50 kW to multi-megawatts in size.  Solar developers are encouraged to submit their projects prior to September 30th, when investors will get their first look at projects.  Projects entered prior to this date increase their visibility and the likelihood of getting included in the investors’ 2011 portfolios.

Sol Systems invites interested solar developers to attend a SolMarket webinar, hosted every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday during the month of September at 2 pm EST.  For more information, please email info@solmarket.com or visit www.solmarket.com.

About Sol Systems

SolMarket is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sol SystemsSol Systems is a Washington D.C. based solar finance firm, and the largest solar renewable energy credit (SREC) aggregator in the nation, with over 2,300 customers and over 20 MW of solar capacity under management.  Through its SREC offerings, it has promoted the development of the solar market by providing long-term financing options for SRECs, facilitating over $100 million in solar development.

Contact:

Ms. Sudha Gollapudi, Director of Strategic Partnerships

info@solmarket.com

888-765-1115 x1

When is 1 MWh of solar electricity equal to 1 SREC?

Many definitions of solar renewable energy credits (“SRECs”) say that an SREC is equivalent to one megawatt-hour (1,000 kilowatt hours) of electricity generated by a solar facility. While this is mostly true, it’s not always the case that 1 MWh of solar = 1 SREC. In order for an SREC to be created (or “awarded”), the system must receive certification from the state where that SREC will ultimately be sold – and the system must be registered with the regional transmission organization, such as PJM GATS or NEPOOL GIS. These organizations are the entities that acknowledge solar electricity production of 1 MWH and award the system owner with 1 SREC.

In other words, if a solar energy system is not registered with at least one state and registered with PJM GATS or NEPOOL GIS, the system may produce solar electricity without producing any SRECs. This is important because if no SREC is created, no SREC can be sold.

To further complicate matters, each state has different rules about retroactive SRECs — or how far back SRECs can be awarded. In select situations, SRECs can be retroactively awarded years into the past, whereas other circumstances only allow SREC creation from the state’s certification date forward.

Most often, systems are registered with the state in which they are located, but in certain circumstances, SRECs from one state may be sold into another state which has an open SREC policy and a higher price for SRECs.  In cases where the SREC will be sold into a different state, the system must be registered in the state where the SREC will be sold.

In order to ensure that a solar energy system is producing SRECs, the system owner must complete various forms with one or more state agencies.  This paperwork can be submitted by system owners themselves, or it may be done through the installer, or an SREC aggregator, such as Sol Systems — the nation’s largest and oldest SREC aggregator.

Once a system is registered and producing SRECs, the SRECs can be sold to entities that are willing to buy them.

Why would anyone buy an SREC?

Some states in the U.S. have created Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that require energy suppliers and utilities to produce a minimum amount of their energy from renewable energy sources.  These pieces of state legislation essentially create a marketplace for renewable energy at a premium price and thus stimulate the development of renewable energy markets. Some Renewable Portfolio Standards have specific provisions that require a portion of the electricity to come from solar (a “solar carveout”), and these states typically have strong solar energy markets and robust SREC markets.

When faced with an RPS with a solar carve-out, utilities have three options: build solar power facilities and produce the solar energy themselves, purchase Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) or pay a Solar Alternative Compliance Payment (SACP) – a set price for each Megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable energy they fail to acquire.

SREC Prices

The price at which SRECs are sold is dependent on 3 market factors: supply, demand, and the level of the alternative compliance payment (ACP). Demand is driven by state RPS requirements and supply is driven by the number and size of individual solar energy systems which are certified to produce SRECs in a given state.  In markets that are undersupplied, the ACP tends to set a ceiling price on the price of SRECs, so a state with a high ACP often leads to high SREC prices – at least until supply catches up to demand. Depending on the intersection of supply, demand, the level of the ACP, as well as the terms of the SREC contract – SREC prices can vary widely.

For more information about SRECs, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

NJ Solar Driven by SRECs (Even More than Before)

New Jersey has been the leading SREC market in the U.S for some time, but the phase-out of the REIP program and the introduction of the SREC Registration Program (SRP) mean that New Jersey’s solar market is now truly driven by SRECs — and market growth appears to be quite robust.

Since the start of 2011, the New Jersey Clean Energy Program has:
• been receiving approximately 575 new applications per month
• been approving about 50 MW of SRP & REIP Applications per month
• seen an average of 16 MW of system completions per month.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Board is proposing the re-adoption of some amendments to its Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency rules at N.J.A.C. 14:8 (Chapter 8). These rules lay the groundwork for New Jersey’s SREC program.

Some of the tenants and requirements of the Chapter 8 Readoption Proposal are summarized below for the convenience of our readers.

SREC Lifespan
An SREC associated with energy generated on or after July 1, 2010 shall be used to comply with RPS requirements for any one of the following three energy years:
• The energy year in which the underlying energy was generated
• Either of the two energy years immediately following the energy year in which the underlying energy was generated

An SREC based on energy generated before July 1, 2010 shall be used only to comply with the requirements of this subchapter for the energy year during which the underlying energy was generated, and/or the subsequent
energy year.

Once an SREC has been submitted for compliance, the SREC shall be permanently retired.

SREC Generation
In order to measure SREC generation, the Board or its designee shall accept either of the following measurement methods:

• Periodic readings of a meter that records megawatt-hour production of electrical energy. The readings may be taken or submitted by any person, but shall be verified by the Board or its designee, or
• For a solar electricity system with a capacity of less than 10 kilowatts, annual engineering estimates and/or monitoring protocols

SREC Registration Process
In order to qualify to produce SRECs, systems need to go through the SREC Registration Program (SRP) and be issued a New Jersey State Certification Number.

The SRP process requires:
• The submittal of an initial registration package- generally 10 business days after execution of the contract for purchase or installation (whichever comes first) of the photovoltaic panels to be used in the solar facility.
• Construction of the solar facility to not begin until after Board staff has issued a conditional registration for the facility.
• Construction of the solar facility to be completed and local code approval granted prior to the expiration of the conditional registration.

If the applicable submittal deadline is met, SRECs shall be usable for compliance with this chapter immediately upon the issuance of a New Jersey State Certification Number for the facility. However, if the applicable deadline is not met, any SRECs based on electricity generated by the solar facility shall not be usable for compliance with this chapter until 12 months after the solar facility has received authorization to energize in accordance with the Board’s interconnection rules.

Registration of a solar electric generating facility requires completion of the following process:

1. The registrant shall submit an initial registration package to the Board.

2. If the initial registration package is incomplete or deficient, Board staff shall notify the registrant in writing of the deficiencies.

3. Once the registration package is complete, Board staff shall review the package to determine whether the solar facility meets the SREC eligibility requirements of this subchapter. If the facility does not meet these requirements, Board staff shall notify the registrant. The registrant shall revise the package and resubmit it within one year of this notice. Failure to resubmit within this time will result in cancellation of the registration process, in which case a complete new registration process shall be required for the solar facility to obtain a New Jersey State Certification Number.

4. If the solar facility as described in the initial registration package meets SREC eligibility requirements, Board staff shall issue notice to the registrant of a conditional registration for the facility. The notice of the conditional registration shall:
• State that, if the solar facility is constructed as described in the initial registration package, Board staff will issue a New Jersey State certification Number for the solar facility upon construction completion and inspection; and
• Include an expiration date 12 months after the date of the notice

5. After issuance of the notice of conditional registration, construction of the solar facility as described in the initial registration package may begin. Construction of the solar electric generating facility shall be completed prior to expiration of the conditional registration.

The registrant may request one extension prior to the expiration of the conditional registration, and shall include an updated schedule for completion. Board staff may authorize one extension for the project on a case-by-case basis, based on the likelihood of timely and successful completion of the solar facility. If the conditional registration or extension expires before construction is complete, the registrant shall begin the entire registration process again by submitting an initial registration package and the Board staff shall treat the new registration package as if it were a first-time submittal.

The application will require the following:
• Information identifying and describing the owner, host location, builder/installer and operator of the solar electric generating facility
• Basic information describing the solar facility, including its capacity, manufacturer and expected output
• A technical worksheet detailing the technical specifications of the solar facility
• A construction schedule for completing the solar facility, including significant milestones;
• A signed contract or other binding legal document between the owner and installer of the solar facility
• Basic information regarding the cost of equipment and installation
• A site map of the land upon which the generating facility will be located
• Any other data or information necessary for Board staff to determine whether the solar electric generation will meet the requirements for SRECs.

When construction of the solar electric generating facility is complete, the facility owner (or installer) shall submit a post-construction certification and request an inspection or inspection waiver from the Board staff.

A post-construction certification package would include the following:
• A copy of the conditional registration notice issued by the Board
• A final “as built” technical worksheet, detailing the technical specifications of the completed solar electric generating facility, including any changes from the technical worksheet submitted as part of the initial registration package
• Digital photographs of the site and the completed solar facility
• A shading analysis
• An estimate of the electricity production of the solar facility
• Documentation of compliance with all applicable Federal, State and local law, including eligibility for any tax incentives or other government benefits, where applicable.

The facility owner (or installer) should supply a copy of the initial application to interconnect the facility to the distribution and transmission system, as well as the EDC or PJM approval to interconnect and energize the facility; and a statement that an inspection of the solar facility, or an inspection waiver, has been requested through the Board’s NJCEP website, and the date of the request.

After receiving the inspection request and complete final documentation required, Board staff will conduct an inspection or notify the registrant that no inspection is required (waiver).

If no inspection is required, or if the inspection indicates that the solar electric generating facility has been constructed in accordance with the conditional registration, and/or any Board-authorized changes, Board staff shall assign a New Jersey State Certification Number to the solar facility for use in obtaining SRECs from PJM-EIS GATS.

If, after submittal of an initial registration package, an increase or decrease of more than 10 percent in the solar electric generating facility’s generating capacity is planned, the registrant shall notify Board staff by e-mail

Interconnection Review (for systems under 10 KW)
Once a customer-generator has met the level 1 interconnection, the EDC shall notify the customer-generator in writing that the customer-generator is authorized to energize the customer-generator facility, as follows:
• The EDC shall send the authorization to the e-mail address, and to the U.S. Postal Service mailing address that is listed on the customer generator’s submitted interconnection application form; and
• The EDC shall not condition the authorization to energize on the EDC’s replacement of the customer-generator’s meter.

An applicant shall submit an application Interconnection Application/Agreement Form for level 1 interconnection review.

If a customer-generator facility meets all of the applicable criteria above, the EDC notifies the customer-generator under that the facility will be approved, the EDC shall, within three business days after sending the notice of approval do both of the following:

• Notify the applicant by e-mail or other writing of whether an EDC inspection of the customer-generator facility for compliance with this subchapter is required prior to energizing the facility or that the EDC waives inspection; and

• Return to the applicant a level 1 interconnection agreement, unless: Part 1 of the original application, signed by the appropriate EDC representative.

The EDC does not require an interconnection agreement for customer generator facilities that qualify for level 1 interconnection review; or

The applicant has already submitted such an agreement with its application for interconnection.

An applicant that receives an interconnection agreement shall execute the agreement and return it to the EDC. If the EDC requires an inspection of the customer-generator facility, the EDC shall promptly complete the inspection and the applicant shall not begin operating the facility until completion of the inspection.

Upon receipt of the executed interconnection agreement from the customer generator and satisfactory completion of an inspection, if required, the EDC shall notify the customer-generator in writing that the interconnection is approved, conditioned on approval by the electrical code officials with jurisdiction over the interconnection.

If an EDC does not notify a level 1 applicant in writing or by e-mail whether the interconnection is approved or denied within 20 business days after the receipt of an application, the interconnection shall be deemed approved. The 20 days shall begin on the date that the EDC sends the written or e-mail notice or application receipt required.

A customer-generator shall notify the EDC of the anticipated start date for operation of the customer-generator facility at least five days prior to starting operation, either through the submittal of the interconnection agreement or in a separate notice.

Once an applicant receives Part 1 of the application with the EDC signature, and has installed and interconnected the customer generator facility, the applicant shall obtain approval of the facility by the appropriate construction official.

The customer-generator shall submit documentation of the construction official’s approval to the EDC, along with a copy of Part 2 of the application, signed by the customer-generator.

If inspection of the customer-generator facility was waived, the EDC shall, within five business days after receiving the submittal required under above, notify the customer-generator of authorization to energize the facility. The notice to the customer-generator shall be provided in the format required.

If inspection of the customer-generator facility was not waived, the following process shall apply:

• The customer-generator shall submit the construction official’s approval and signed Part 2, and inform the EDC that the customer-generator facility is ready for EDC inspection
• Within three business days after the customer-generator notifies the EDC that the facility is ready for inspection, the EDC shall offer the customer-generator two or more available four-hour inspection appointments.
• The appointments offered shall be no later than 10 business days after the EDC offers the appointments (that is, within 13 business days after the customer-generator submittal.
• The customer-generator shall notify the EDC which of the offered inspection times the customer-generator prefers, or shall arrange another time by mutual agreement with the EDC.
• Within five business days after successful completion of the EDC inspection, the EDC shall notify the customer-generator that it is authorized to energize the facility.

The official version of the Chapter 8 rules was published in the New Jersey Register on May 2, 2011.

About Sol Systems:
Sol Systems is a solar energy finance and development firm that was built on the principle that solar energy should be an economically viable energy solution. With thousands of customers and hundreds of partners throughout the United States, Sol Systems is the largest and oldest SREC aggregator. We provide homeowners, businesses, solar installers, and developers with sophisticated financing solutions that help make solar energy more affordable. Sol Systems also helps energy suppliers and utilities manage and meet their solar RPS requirements efficiently by providing them with access to diverse portfolios of SRECs. For more information, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

Sol Systems to speak at PV America Conference on 4/5/11

Sol Systems, a solar finance company and the largest and oldest SREC aggregator in the U.S. will present at the PV America Conference in Philadelphia, PA on Tuesday, April 5th, 2011 at 10:30 AM.

Yuri Horwitz, CEO of Sol Systems, will be speaking with George Ashton, CFO, and Natacha Kiler, Director of Sales & Marketing. The presentation “Financing your solar project with SRECs” will address SREC market fundamentals, various types of SREC transactions, and the benefits of each type of transaction. Specifically, the speakers will address spot market transactions, multi-year aggregator contracts, contracts with compliance entities, upfront SREC payments, and the bankability of SREC contracts.

There will be a question and answer forum after the presentation. The Sol Systems management team will also be available to meet with existing and prospective partners on Monday, April 4th in advance of the presentation. For more information on the PV America conference, please visit www.pvamericaexpo.com. For more information on Sol Systems, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

3 Things You Don’t Know About New Jersey Solar RECs

Lots of people know that New Jersey is the 2nd largest solar market in the U.S. and that the market’s strength is largely credited to a robust solar renewable energy credit (“SREC“) market (SRECs traded on the spot market at approximately $650/SREC in early 2011), but there are three things that most people don’t know about the New Jersey SREC market…

1. When does SREC creation begin?
2. What are New Jersey’s solar meter requirements?
3. When will NJ SREC prices fall?

When does SREC creation begin?
SREC creation does not begin as soon as the system is installed or when the system is capable of producing solar electricity. Rather, SRECs are awarded after New Jersey has awarded the system a certification number and the utility has signed off on the interconnection agreement. Thereafter, one SREC is awarded for every megawatt hour of solar energy that is generated.

The SRECs can be sold after the system has been listed on PJM’s Generation Attributes Tracking System (GATS). PJM GATS is responsible for tracking SREC production for systems located in New Jersey and throughout the PJM region (so that SRECs aren’t double-counted).

When it comes to selling SRECs and collecting money for SRECs, system owners have a variety of options. They can sell on the spot market through an aggregator or broker, they can sell through a fixed price contract with a utility or aggregator, or they can pre-sell their SRECs through an upfront agreement. In all of these arrangements, there will be a slight delay in when the system owner actually receives a payment for their SRECs. One reason for the delay is that GATs does not award a credit for an SREC until one month after the SREC is generated.

What are New Jersey’s solar meter requirements?
The most recent rules from the New Jersey Clean Energy Program require systems to have an ANSI certified solar meter with a 5% accuracy rating for systems 10 KW or less and a 1% accuracy rating for systems larger than 10 KW. (Systems that have received REIP funds and that are 10 KW or smaller in size do not need to meet this requirement.)

A solar meter (often called a “utility-grade meter”) is different than the utility meter, the solar meter is installed with the solar energy system and it is ultimately what measures SREC production. To get credit for each SREC that is generated, system owners who have systems larger than 10 KW must provide a monthly meter reading. This reading can be taken manually, or through a remote monitoring system.

When will SREC prices fall?
Unlike some other SREC markets, New Jersey has historically enjoyed high and stable SREC prices. In fact, SREC spot prices actually rose from September 2008 to March 2009, which led some people to regard SRECs as an appreciating asset. The history of high and stable prices has led many system owners and solar developers to believe that spot market SREC prices are guaranteed to remain stable in New Jersey, but unfortunately, this is not true.

To understand why SREC prices will fall eventually, one must understand why NJ SREC prices are currently high. In today’s world, New Jersey energy suppliers have the choice to:
a. Develop their own solar energy facilities
b. Purchase SRECs from solar energy system owners via the spot market or through long-term fixed price contracts
c. Pay an “Alternative Compliance Penalty” (ACP)

Thus far, most energy suppliers have elected to (b) purchase SRECs from solar energy system owners through the spot market and long term contracts. They have done so because they do not currently have enough of their own solar capacity to meet their obligations and they would rather purchase SRECs (at an amount slightly less than the ACP) than they would pay a penalty fee for non-compliance. However, energy suppliers have plans to develop their own plants, and they know that the ACP declines slightly every year (by approximately $15 every year) which means that, no matter what happens, they will be paying less for SRECs in the future.

In addition, the supply of SRECs in New Jersey is increasing as more solar farms, residential and commercial solar energy systems are built (“SREC supply”). Luckily, New Jersey’s RPS legislation calls for an increasing number of SRECs to be bought and/or created by energy suppliers (“SREC demand”). In fact the SREC demand will increase in June 2011, but the supply of SRECs is edging closer and closer to SREC demand.

As of March 2011, there was an SREC undersupply of approximately 10,000 SRECs (equivalent to what 8 MW generates annually). This gap is smaller than it has ever been – but the gap is what helps keep New Jersey’s solar REC prices high. Moreover, new projects are coming online every day (11 MW were installed in February 2011), and there is a pipeline of small residential projects and more than 200 megawatts of large-scale projects that have already been announced. (Here at Sol Systems, it seems we talk to at least one developer each day who is planning a 1+ MW project in New Jersey.)

If just a portion of this pipeline comes to fruition, there may be an oversupply of SRECs which will flood the SREC market and cause SREC spot market prices to fall. On the other hand, history has shown that multi-megawatt solar projects are often delayed or never come to pass – so it’s hard to know exactly when supply will catch up with demand. If an oversupply occurs, SREC spot market prices will begin to fall, and system owners who do not have a fixed-price, multi-year contract like Sol Annuity with an SREC aggregator or an energy supplier could see decreases in their SREC income and their solar energy system ROI.

Alas, even the SREC experts can’t tell you if or when spot market SREC prices will fall in New Jersey. The truth is that SRECs are commodities and system owners need to evaluate their own tolerance for risk when determining their strategy for selling them.

About Sol Systems
Sol Systems is a solar energy finance and development firm that was built on the principle that solar energy should be an economically viable energy solution. With thousands of customers and hundreds of partners throughout the United States, Sol Systems is the largest and oldest SREC aggregator. We provide homeowners, businesses, solar installers, and developers with sophisticated financing solutions that help make solar energy more affordable. Sol Systems also helps energy suppliers and utilities manage and meet their solar RPS requirements efficiently by providing them with access to diverse portfolios of SRECs. For more information, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

Why Installers Need to be Careful about the Future Value of SRECs

Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECs, are a key part of financing solar PV systems, typically covering 20 to 40% of installation costs. Therefore, it is critical that solar installers, homeowners, and businesses be prudent when projecting future values of SRECs.

An SREC is a tradable credit that represents the clean energy benefits of electricity generated from a solar electric system. Each time the electric system generates 1000 kWh, a SREC is issued that can be sold or traded separately from the power. SRECs are financially valuable because many states have Renewable Portfolio Standards (an RPS) with specific solar carve-outs that require energy suppliers to incorporate a certain percentage of solar generated electricity into their portfolio. Most energy suppliers do not have enough solar capacity to satisfy the RPS requirements with their own power and subsequently must purchase SRECs to meet the state requirement. This allows owners of solar systems to trade their SRECs as commodities and receive payments for them.

SRECs have functioned as an important tool for making solar systems more affordable, and therefore SRECs are typically a significant part of the sales pitch that installers use when explaining the economic benefits of going solar. Furthermore, as state grant and rebate programs diminish, SRECs represent a bigger piece of the way to finance solar. For example, in Ohio and D.C., state funds for solar rebate programs are currently depleted, and homeowners must now rely solely on the federal tax investment credit, SREC payments, and energy bill savings to offset the cost of their system.

In many states, the RPS requirements (that make SRECs valuable) increase annually until 2025. This leads some people to assume that SREC values will also increase annually as energy suppliers will need to purchase more SRECs to meet the solar carve our requirement. However, this is not necessarily the case. The amount of solar capacity is increasing along with RPS requirements, which means that in most states, the SREC values are actually coming down. For this reason, installers need to be honest and careful when describing the future value of SRECs, so that customers do not have false expectations about the ROI of their solar energy system.

In addition to the RPS requirement, the two key factors in determining SREC values are the Solar Alternative Compliance Penalty (SACP) and SREC supply.

The SACP is a fee that a regulated entity must surrender in the event they do not procure a sufficient amount of solar electricity. This fee acts as a price cap because a rational energy supplier would not be willing to purchase SRECs for greater than this value. The SACP is defined on a state-by-state basis, and virtually every state has a declining SACP schedule. For example, in Ohio the SACP declines by $50.00 every two years. The SACP alone will not determine the value of an SREC, but a declining SACP schedule will push the maximum value of SRECs down over time.

The supply of SRECs in the market is another essential factor to consider when predicting future values. Naturally, if there is a surplus of SRECs, then SREC prices will come down. This dynamic has already happened in states such as Pennsylvania and D.C., and solar system owners that locked into a long-term fixed contract are receiving higher values than those trying to trade on the spot market.

Since there is a lot of uncertainty about the future of SREC values, installers should make it clear that SRECs are a commodity and that their pricing can be quite volatile. They should also help their customers make an informed choice about how to sell their SRECs that accommodates their tolerance for SREC market risk. Installers will find that customers who have a good understanding of the SREC market volatility may be willing to accept a lot of risk and enter shorter contracts because they are bullish on the future of SREC markets. However, others may be risk adverse, and would prefer to lock in a fixed price for their SRECs for 3, 5, or even 10 year periods.

As long as installers adopt a cautious approach when discussing SRECs with clients, customers will sort themselves along the lines of risk preference.

The Distributed Generation Amendment Act of 2011: Critical for DC’s Solar Community

District of Columbia Council Member, Mary Cheh, recently introduced one of the more important pieces of legislation the District’s solar community has seen in some time: the Distributed Generation Amendment Act of 2011.  This bill sets a framework and goals for the District that will ensure the development of a robust solar community by creating jobs, providing a price hedge against rising energy costs, strengthening the local transmission grid, and producing significant localized environmental benefits.

The bill accomplishes these goals in two ways.

1.      It increases the solar renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements for the District so that these requirements look more like the policies of surrounding states: Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey.  This sets up the long-term foundation for the solar community, and positions the District as one of the leading cities to attract and retain investment in solar.

2.      It ensures that only solar systems actually located on the District’s distribution grid qualify towards DC’s RPS, or solar energy goals. This has the added effect of stimulating local economic development while ensuring DC reaps the many benefits of distributed solar energy.

What is a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)?

A renewable portfolio standard is a state-legislated policy (in this case, the District’s policy) that requires energy suppliers to provide a portion of their electricity from renewable energy in a state.  This means that for every unit of electricity provided to the district, a certain percentage must come from wind, solar, biomass, etc.

The District’s RPS has a specific requirement for solar, which means that for every unit of electricity sold, a portion (.04% in 2011) must come specifically from solar.  Energy suppliers can meet this requirement by:

(1)   Supplying solar electricity from solar systems they build, or

(2)   Paying a solar energy system owner (like a homeowner) to supply it for them.  This is accomplished by purchasing the solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), something akin to carbon credits, associated with the solar system. SRECs are key to making solar affordable and they are fundamental for making solar systems economical for homeowners and businesses.

RPS legislation like the District’s is now very common. Altogether, 36 states have a RPS or similar legislation and 16 states have a RPS with a solar carve-out similar to that in DC.

The Distributed Generation Amendment Act of 2011 makes some critical changes to the RPS that will ensure its effectiveness in the future.

Why is solar beneficial to the District of Columbia?

The District of Columbia currently imports almost 100% of all of its energy supply. Solar generation, and more specifically, distributed solar generation provides significant social, environmental, and economic benefits.  Some benefits of local solar generation include:

  • Increasing the stability and reliability of the distribution grid
  • Reducing pollutants such as NOx and SOx
  • Diversifying the District’s fuel sources
  • Decreasing the price vulnerability District rate-payers incur by relying solely upon fossil fuel sources, which have significant variable costs
  • Reducing the heat-islanding affects found in DC
  • Reducing the demand for energy during the middle of the day, and specifically during the summer.  This aligns with peak demand, and disproportionately offsets highly polluting “peaker” units
  • Creating jobs in the District of Columbia

The Distributed Generation Amendment Act of 2011 bill forges the foundation necessary for sustainable industry growth for years to come, while creating many more local green collar jobs (over 600 have been created so far) and a significant revenue stream for the city through increased tax revenues.

What are the benefits of the legislation for a homeowner?

A residential system owner can save a substantial amount of money on their utility bills by installing a solar energy system, typically between 30-50% (or $400-800 annually), depending on the size of their system. Homeowners can also sell the green attributes associated with their energy production in the form of solar renewable energy credits (SRECs). The average homeowner can earn between $900-1800 annually by selling SRECs. Energy suppliers buy these SRECs to meet their RPS goals.  This is why an effective renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is so critical for solar financing.

The Distributed Generation Act of 2011 provides homeowners and businesses with a significant economic incentive to go solar.  The legislation creates a long-term and sustainable market for solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) which solar system owners can sell to energy suppliers.  The legislation also ensures that the market for SRECs will remain stable and strong into the future, which will spur solar development and investment in the District.

For the District’s environmental community, this bill moves us towards a more sustainable future, while also creating jobs and helping local industry.  It is well crafted, with significant support from the solar industry, and it is a piece of legislation worthy of community support.

If you want to help the District lay the foundation for a sustainable solar community and spur solar development in the city, we urge you to contact your DC council member .

An Outlook On Solar in 2011

Competition is stiff in the solar manufacturing industry, with companies like Evergreen announcing their departure from the United States to China in order to reduce costs. Enormous global module supply has come online in the last two years to help fuel the rapid build-out in Europe, China and elsewhere, resulting in dramatic declines in solar module pricing. Some, like Gleacher and Company, are modeling module prices at around $1.30/watt right now. Others are actually predicting wholesale module costs at $1.10 in the next few weeks.

The result is a strange dichotomy of a manufacturing industry undergoing rapid growth and simultaneously undergoing a stressful reallocation of resources and a fairly pessimistic outlook on Wall Street. The WilderHill Clean Energy Index, which includes solar and other alternative-energy stocks, fell 5.3 percent last year, compared with a 12.8 percent rise in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. Companies like SunPower, Yingli, JA Solar, Trina, Canadian Solar, MEMC, Suntech and others all produced significant negative returns, some upward of negative 20 percent.

This fall in module prices, and the corresponding difficulties for module manufacturers, will likely continue through 2011 as the world’s top solar market, Germany, further cuts its solar subsidies and a growing supply of photovoltaic modules outstrips demand, putting pressure on prices and producers’ profits. As others have noted, a weak euro will compound the problem for Chinese and U.S. manufacturers. Last year, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Czech Republic all cut back their solar subsidies. Further cuts are expected in Germany and France in the first half of 2011 and in Italy in the second half. Those three markets account for around 70 percent of the global market, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Next year may be the first year in which more solar is built in the United States than in Germany.

For the solar installer and developer community this is presumably welcome news (ignoring the risks, of course, that similar reductions in incentives may take place here). As solar module costs decline, so are total system costs since modules compose a significant portion of the overall costs of a solar system.

However, cost reductions do not uniformly impact the solar community. Because of economies of scale, module costs account for a much larger portion of commercial-sized solar system’s costs than residential. The impact is still more powerful with regard to utility sized projects. As a result, falling module costs disproportionately benefit larger systems, as illustrated the figure below (care of SEIA).

Not only are commercial and utility costs already significantly lower than residential costs, they are also falling more rapidly. Indeed, utility projects are falling in price at three times the rate that residential projects are. This is an interesting window into the solar industry in the United States, which is that solar systems will undoubtedly get BIGGER.

To compound this trend, as states drastically reduce or altogether cut their rebate and grant programs for residential and small commercial systems, the economics that once favored smaller projects are starting to disappear. States like New Jersey, California, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and many others have all gutted their tax-funded rebate or grant programs. American Recovery and Reinvestment monies that flowed through the states in much of 2009 and 2010 are nearing their ends. Although module costs are falling significantly, they are not falling (nor could they) by two to three dollars a watt , which was often the size of grant and rebate monies. The result is a further shift upward in size. In Massachusetts, for example, given the emphasis on a solar renewable energy credit (SREC) market, many developers are starting to focus exclusively on commercial and utility scale projects.

For residential focused installers and developers, this may be an opportunity or a challenge. Presumably, those firms that can secure large economies of scale in purchasing power will better weather these changes than those that cannot. Additionally, because size matters, the industry may see consolidation. Hopefully, it will also see aggregation or collaborative models, where residential and small commercial installers work together to secure better financing opportunities and engineer more sophisticated acquisition models. This, of course, is a primary focus of financing firms like Sol Systems. Additionally, power purchase agreements and lease agreements may gain prominence if effective costs rise for residential customers in the absence of rebates.

For commercial and utility developers, a move upward in size means a necessary move towards more complex financing instruments. It becomes a bit more difficult to make a pure equity play on a multimegawatt project – a blended debt/tax equity/first loss equity product is typically required to reduce risks and bring down the costs of capital. To see this approach succeed, the capital markets will have to open further to solar projects. A lack of access to debt markets and tax equity was a big part of what has slowed the growth in wind and large-scale solar in the last few years. So this may be a challenge. On the other hand, Chinese banks continue to push into the US market to debt finance multi-megawatt portfolios, so it may not only be Chinese modules the US industry is using, it may also be Chinese money.

In sum, as the industry grows, there will be a continued movement towards larger projects. To succeed, players will have to become more sophisticated. This will favor players in the residential space who are able to collaboratively or individually leverage economies of scale and acquisition models and players in the commercial and utility space who are able to better secure complex financing instruments.

Connecticut: the Next Big SREC Market?

Recent shifts in the political landscape indicate that Connecticut will be the next state to legislate a Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) marketplace. A SREC marketplace allows solar energy system owners to trade their SRECs (the environmental attributes associated with 1 megawatt hour of solar electricity production) on a secondary market at a competitive price. Although Connecticut does not currently have a robust SREC market, the state has a Renewable Portfolio Standard with relatively ambitious targets and a newly elected governor who has voiced his support for solar.

Enacted in 1998, Connecticut’s RPS mandates that 23% of the retail electricity load come from renewable electricity by January 1, 2020. Renewable technologies in the RPS are differentiated into Classes 1, 2, and 3, with solar and wind electricity both being designated as Class 1 technologies. Electricity suppliers can comply with Class 1 annual requirements by procuring Renewable Energy Credits (“RECs”) from facilities located within the ISO New England area (i.e. Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire). In addition, RECs from systems located in states outside of the ISO New England area, such as Pennsylvania and Delaware, are eligible for compliance purposes. If electricity suppliers fail to generate or purchase sufficient RECs to meet their renewable energy requirements, they must submit an Alternative Compliance Penalty (ACP). The current ACP in CT is $55.00 per REC or megawatt hour.

In the spring of 2010, Assembly Bill 493 was passed by the Connecticut House and Senate, but vetoed by former Governor Rell. This bill, “An Act Reducing Electricity Costs and Promoting Renewable Energy”, would have defined a specific requirement for solar energy technologies, and would have created a more stringent non-compliance penalty. If passed, the legislation would have increased the value of SRECs. Connecticut’s current Governor, Dan Malloy, has, in the past, voiced support for the passage of this legislation and stated that he would have signed the bill. However, to date, no solar legislation or discussion drafts are available for analysis.

As the solar topic continues to gather steam inside and outside of Connecticut, Sol Systems would like to note a list of provisions that will be central to any new future solar legislation in Connecticut.

1. The Alternative Compliance Penalty (ACP): The ACP largely determines the ceiling value for an SREC. A higher ACP can lead to higher SREC prices, resulting in a better payoff for those investing in solar energy. For example, neighboring Massachusetts is a state that has helped enact an SREC market by creating a $600.00 ACP; as a result, SRECs in Massachusetts are currently fetching prices between $275-$500.

2. System Eligibility: Currently, Connecticut is an “open market” meaning that it’s RPS allows Renewable Energy Credits (“RECs”) from a large region outside of Connecticut to be eligible for compliance. If new legislation retains this “openness” the SREC and REC values will likely be decreased, as was the case with SRECs in the District of Columbia. To ensure the integrity of a future market, advocates for solar in Connecticut should ensure eligibility requirements that would not lead to an oversupply of SRECs on the market.

3. The Solar Carve-Out Schedule: A solar carve-out schedule defines how much solar electricity must be produced each year, and therefore determines the demand for SRECs. To ensure the market is robust, advocates of solar should advance aggressive solar requirements, akin to states such as New Jersey and Maryland.

Sol Systems’ anticipates future SREC legislation in Connecticut, and will be working with other solar advocates towards advancing a robust solar future in the state.

About Sol Systems:

Sol Systems is a solar energy finance and development firm that was built on the principle that solar energy should be an economically viable energy solution. With thousands of customers and hundreds of partners throughout the United States, Sol Systems is the largest and oldest SREC aggregator. We provide homeowners, businesses, solar installers, and developers with sophisticated financing solutions that help make solar energy more affordable. Sol Systems also helps energy suppliers and utilities manage and meet their solar RPS requirements efficiently by providing them with access to diverse portfolios of SRECs. For more information, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

Governor O’Malley Appoints Leading Educator, Solar Innovator to Board of Maryland Clean Energy Center

January 6, 2011 – ANNAPOLIS, MD

Gov. Martin O’Malley has appointed a prominent academic researcher and a solar industry finance expert to fill two vacancies on the Board of Directors of the Maryland Clean Energy Center.

“We are privileged to have two such high-caliber and forceful clean energy advocates join us as we move into our second year of operation”

Eric Wachsman, PhD, Director of the University of Maryland’s Energy Research Center, will serve through June 2015. George Ashton, co-Founder and Chief Financial Officer of Sol Systems, LLC, a national leader in aggregating solar renewable energy credits, is fulfilling a term that runs through September 2012.

Wachsman and Ashton join existing members of the Center’s Board of Directors who oversee its mission of helping consumers, supporting businesses and advising lawmakers in Maryland as the state scales up its clean energy industries and energy efficiency initiatives. Other Board members include Jeremy Butz, Carol Collins, Ken Connolly, Jeff Eckel – who serves as the current Board Chairman – and Malcolm Woolf, Director of the Maryland Energy Administration.

“I am so proud to announce the appointment of two very talented individuals to the Board of the Maryland Clean Energy Center,” said Governor O’Malley. “As Maryland continues to emerge as a national leader in clean energy, their leadership will help us move toward a better and more sustainable future for our children. I’d like to thank them for their willingness to step up and serve the people of our State as we work to find innovative ways to reach our clean energy goals in the toughest of times.”

“We are privileged to have two such high-caliber and forceful clean energy advocates join us as we move into our second year of operation,” said I. Katherine Magruder, Executive Director of the Maryland Clean Energy Center. “They will help facilitate the adoption and generation of clean energy along with the new jobs, consumer savings and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that come with it.”

In addition to his leadership of UM Energy Research Center, Wachsman holds the William L. Crentz Centennial Chair in Energy Research at the University of Maryland, College Park. Previously, Wachsman was Director of the Florida Institute for Sustainable Energy and a professor of materials science and engineer at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He has authored dozens of research papers since beginning his career as an engineer for chip-maker Intel. He earned his PhD and Masters of Science from Stanford University. Wachsman is filling out the remainder of the Board term served by Dan Goodman.

Ashton has been instrumental in growing Sol Systems into one of the country’s leading aggregators of solar renewable energy credits, or SRECs. Solar system owners earn 1 SREC for every 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity their systems generate each year. Before Sol Systems, Ashton was a Senior Account Executive at Fannie Mae, a government-sponsored enterprise chartered by Congress chartered to provide liquidity and stability to the U.S. housing and mortgage markets. Ashton earned his MBA from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University Maryland in College Park.

About Sol Systems:
Sol Systems is a solar energy finance firm. With thousands of customers and hundreds of partners throughout the United States, Sol Systems is the largest and oldest SREC aggregator. We provide homeowners, businesses, solar installers, and developers with sophisticated financing solutions that help make solar energy more affordable. Sol Systems also helps energy suppliers and utilities manage and meet their solar RPS requirements by providing access to diverse SREC portfolios. For more information, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

Why are spot market and long-term SRECs priced differently?

Many prospective solar energy owners are quick to notice that spot market rates for Solar Renewable Energy Credits (Solar RECs or “SRECs”) are typically higher than long-term SREC rates on the contract start date. For example, a person that owns a solar energy system in Delaware could sell a single SREC on the spot market for approximately $275 in December 2010, but if that same person wanted to lock-in at a 5 year SREC rate, she would only be able to get approximately $250 for each SREC produced between today and 2015.

This price difference sometimes leads solar owners to sell their SRECs on the spot market, particularly if they expect SREC prices to go up over time.

So, why would a solar owner choose to enter a long term SREC agreement?

The main reason a system owner would choose a long term contract is because they realize that spot market rates may not always stay high. These owners prefer to guarantee their SREC returns by locking into a fixed rate multi-year contract, which will give them long term security and a predictable source of income. If these system owners are correct, they will end up getting more income over time than they would have by selling their SRECs on the spot market.

But why are long term rates lower than current spot market prices?

There are a few reasons why multi-year contract rates are initially lower than spot market rates, and they relate to SREC buyers appetite to buy SRECs. Let’s start by considering the profile of an SREC buyer.

The ultimate SREC buyer is an energy supplier or utility that is subject to a state Renewable Portfolio Standard with a solar carve-out. These energy suppliers and utilities have the choice of:
(1) Building solar power plants and generating solar energy themselves
(2) Buying the environmental attributes of solar (SRECs) from independent solar energy system owners, or
(3) Paying an Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP) or a penalty fee for not meeting their legislative mandates

If these energy suppliers and utilities do not own operational solar power plants, they typically prefer to buy SRECs. If they want to buy SRECs they can do so by buying them on the spot market or they can enter multi-year agreements at a pre-determined price.

Most energy suppliers will hedge their bets by buying some SRECs on the spot market and some SRECs through multi-year agreements. However, in virtually all cases, these energy suppliers will contract for lower prices per SREC for multi-year agreements than they will pay on today’s spot market. There are a few reasons for this:
(1) They expect that they will not need to buy SRECs in the future. Why? They plan to build solar power plants and generate their own solar energy, so they won’t have to buy them from independent system owners.
(2) They expect that they can buy SRECs at lower costs in the future. Why? They anticipate that there will be more solar projects and that the increased SREC supply (http://www.solsystemscompany.com/faqs-recs-and-srecs) will lead to lower SREC prices.
(3) They want to wait and see what happens to requirements and prices in future years. Why? They expect that legislative changes may reduce or eliminate the requirement for them to buy SRECs.

In other words, energy suppliers themselves believe SREC prices will go down. Because of these expectations, energy suppliers are usually only willing to engage in multi-year agreements at reduced SREC prices. And these uncertainties are the very same risk factors that create SREC spot market volatility.

In summary, when choosing between the SREC spot market and a long term contract, a solar energy system owner should examine their appetite for risk and reward.
System owners who choose to sell their SRECs on the spot market get the reward of higher spot market prices today, but they are likely to face reduced or eliminated SREC values in future years. System owners who choose to sell their SRECs through long term contracts typically receive lower SREC rates today, but they get more certainty on their solar investment returns.

About Sol Systems:
As the largest and oldest SREC aggregator in the U.S., Sol Systems aggregates SRECs from independent solar energy system owners and sells them directly to energy suppliers and utilities through spot-market arrangements and multi-year contracts. Sol Systems operates in 13 states. For more information, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

What will SRECs be worth in 3, 5, and 10 years?

When potential customers ask me about their options for selling SRECs, I explain that they have different options depending on their appetite for risk and their investment time horizon. Some of these potential customers then ask me “what will SRECs be worth in 3, 5, and 10 years?”

This is a very important question in determining the return on a solar investment, so I am always very careful to point out that there are many factors that determine the value of an SREC and these factors change over time, therefore the future value of SRECs is uncertain.

When I note the uncertainty about the future value of SRECs, many customers remark that they believe that the SREC values will go up. As a solar industry advocate, I certainly hope they are right, but I feel that it is my duty to explain the risk factors that affect SREC values.

I usually start by discussing Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), and I mention that SREC demand will go up in line with yearly RPS increases, but not necessarily the value of the SRECs.

Sometimes these customers, particularly those bullish on SREC futures, express interest in entering into a shorter-term SREC agreement, such as Sol Brokerage or our 3-year Sol Annuity contract because they fear that they will lose if SREC prices go up in the future. At this point in the conversation, I usually mention that SREC values will not rise (or remain stable) in perpetuity; instead prices will likely decline.

For example, in Pennsylvania and DC, we have witnessed a decline in SREC values on the spot market by 15% and 23%, respectively, over the last three months. In these cases, system owners that decided to “gamble” by selling their SRECs on the spot market (versus entering into a long-term agreement) have lost value in their SREC transactions – and have no guarantees on the future value of SRECs.

However, in explaining that SREC values can fall, I have noticed that some potential customers suspect we are misleading them, attempting to create doubt about SREC values in order to capitalize on our position in the market.

I now realize this is likely the first time they have heard the idea that SREC values will decrease. After all, many installers claim that SREC demand is going to rise exponentially (or stay constant) over time, and SREC values will be strong for 10, even 20 years (long after the system has been paid for) – which is a line of reasoning that helps installers close more sales.

In an attempt to be objective, I often provide details on particular provisions within a state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). For Ohio, I may cite that the Alternative Compliance Penalty (ACP) is set to decline by $50 per SREC in 2012, and will decline another $50 bi-annually thereafter. Similarly, Maryland, DC, and New Jersey all have declining ACP schedules.

Sometimes this information strikes a chord with a customer, but in more cases, it becomes clear that the customer favors a short-term contract, such as our Sol Brokerage service. This is perfectly fine so long as they understand the risk factors, but I cannot help but conclude that it is easier to sell somebody what they want to believe, instead of trying to educate them on the inherent uncertainty of complex SREC markets.

Sol Systems Unveils Utility-Backed Solar SREC Financing Option in MA

Sol Systems, the nation’s largest solar renewable energy credit (SREC) aggregator, today announced a new three year fixed-rate SREC financing option that will help make solar a more attractive investment for Massachusetts residents and businesses.

“We are very optimistic about the solar market in Massachusetts and we are proud that we can offer solar supporters an affordable, secure way to invest in solar,” said Sol Systems CEO, Yuri Horwitz. “Our three year utility-backed SREC contract will help give prospective solar owners the financial security they need to go solar.”

Massachusetts’ solar REC (SREC) market is relatively new, but several states along the East Coast have established solar credit markets which provide cash flow that make solar energy an affordable option for homeowners and businesses. Sol Systems has been a key player in these markets. In Massachusetts, system owners can cover approximately 25% of system costs through an SREC agreement with Sol Systems.

Sol Systems gives homeowners and businesses a variety of ways to harness the value of SRECs. In Massachusetts, the company offers spot market brokerage services (Sol Brokerage) and multi-year guaranteed rate SREC contracts (Sol Annuity). The Sol Annuity product is available for three and five year contract terms.

Sol Systems also operates in 12 other states where it offers brokerage services and multi-year contracts, in addition to “Sol Upfront”, a pre-paid lump sum for the future value of solar credits.

While multi-year contracts are sometimes available through independent SREC brokers, to its knowledge, Sol Systems is the only company that is providing a 3 year offer that is backed by a contract with an energy supplier. Unlike speculators who bet on SREC futures, Sol Systems’ model provides additional security to homeowners and businesses that are concerned about the volatility of the SREC commodities market.

About Sol Systems
Sol Systems is a Washington D.C. based solar energy finance and development firm that was built on the principle that solar energy should be an economically viable energy solution. Sol Systems enables solar developers, homeowners, and businesses to fully realize the value of their solar energy systems by providing them with a range of options for selling their SRECs. To date, Sol Systems has helped over 1,300 customers with projects ranging from 1 kW to over 1 MW realize the value of their SRECs. Sol Systems currently operates in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. For more information, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

Which is more efficient – RPS or Feed-in-Tariffs?

Two of the most popular policy models administered to stimulate the deployment of solar energy are Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and Feed-in-Tariffs (FITs).

RPS programs with a solar carve-out define a set percentage of electricity that each utility or energy supplier must procure from solar energy generators. To comply, an energy supplier can develop its own solar projects, or procure Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) from SREC aggregators or individual solar energy system owners.

In contrast, a FIT is a solar energy subscription program in which a solar energy owner can sell their electricity at a premium to the government or regulated energy suppliers. The solar electricity premiums, like the one in Ontario, Canada can be very lucrative. The stable cash flow from a state body minimizes the risk for the financier. The returns are defined for a 20-year period, the O&M costs of the facility are typically very low, and the project developer can seek financing with the FIT contract in hand.

These two policy models share similar objectives; they accelerate the deployment of solar energy technologies, build economies of scale that reduce technology costs, and carve out a space for solar within the electricity market. Both models also have unique strengths and proven track records of creating exponential growth in solar energy markets.

In some circles, FITs are held as the gold standard in stimulating solar development, while RPS programs are held in a lesser regard. Advocates of FITs can point to solar success stories like Germany and Ontario, Canada and like to discuss how a FIT could be effectively administered in America. Yet, these discussions are premised on the assumption that FITs are better for solar than an RPS. In an attempt to reframe these discussions, we would challenge this assumption and suggest that, in the mid-term and long-term, an RPS program is a more sophisticated policy instrument which is capable of creating a healthier and sustainable solar market.

The fundamental difference between the two models is that an RPS is a self-correcting model based on incentivizing individuals through secondary markets, while a FIT is a subscription program that sustains a solar market to the extent that governments continually allocate sufficient funds or political will. FITs allow solar developers to secure long term financing for solar development, but they do not create an incentive structure which encourages developers to continually reduce costs. An RPS program, as compared to a FIT, does not provide such security. In states with an RPS and an SREC market, system owners recoup their investment through the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), local rebates or incentives, and through the sale of SRECs.

While the ITC and state rebates tend to be reliable, the value of SRECs on the spot market can fluctuate dramatically over short periods of time. This spot market variability thus creates risk for the system owner and financier. And, if we were to stop the analysis here, it might seem clear that FITs are better for solar energy than an RPS. However, this conclusion would overlook the mid-term and long-term growth of solar markets in favor of robust short-term growth (and it would also ignore the fact that system owners can lock into multi-year guaranteed rate SREC contracts).

In fact, one should recognize that the price fluctuations in SREC markets are a result of supply and demand, and are part of the way that RPS markets adjust themselves. The supply is set by the amount of solar energy installed, and the demand is defined by the compliance requirements as established in the RPS. In the event a solar market witnesses exponential growth in solar development and SREC supply outpaces growth in demand, prices will be pushed down for SRECs.

And, to be clear, this is the goal of both an RPS program and a FIT: drive economies of scale and create a competitive market for solar technologies. If prices are pushed downwards in SREC markets, system developers will be incentivized to reduce the costs of the development in order to maintain margins. In the event prices are too low, the supply of SRECs will be short, energy suppliers will be required to pay higher prices for SRECs, and the market will receive the stimulus needed to push development forward again.

In a state with an RPS program and a robust SREC market, the winners will be those that can stay ahead of the curve in developing systems at lower and lower costs compared to other developers. The losers will be those that continually lag in developing systems at lower costs compared to other developers in the market. In so doing, an RPS program creates competition in the market that will ultimately drive down the costs of solar energy and make it more affordable for more people.

FITs, on the other hand, do not create the same sort of competition between developers to reduce costs. Depending on the FIT premium and the payment schedule, developers can maintain strong margins whilst making no investments in efficiency. The result is FITs can become oversubscribed, burn through allocated funds, and then come to a halt because the market never weans itself off of the crutches of government support. Because of the amount of capital required to fund these programs, FITS are also subject to political scrutiny, and if political change occurs, it can wipe a market out almost overnight (i.e. Spain).

For all these reasons, we would conclude that short-term FITs can create spectacular growth in solar markets, but are less sustainable compared to an RPS program which can adjust to the basic laws of supply and demand.

About Sol Systems:
Sol Systems is a Washington D.C. based solar finance and development firm that is committed to making solar energy more affordable. We enable homeowners, businesses, and solar developers to finance their solar energy systems by providing a conduit for solar renewable energy credit (SREC) monetization and long-term price stability. With more than 1,200 customers across 13 states, Sol Systems has become a critical player in developing SREC markets and financing solar energy systems. We are proud to be the oldest, most sophisticated, and largest SREC aggregator in the country.

Mid Size Commercial Solar Projects Require Guaranteed Long Term SREC Contracts

The mid-Atlantic region has witnessed a rapid growth in solar installations over the past few years. While the large multi-megawatt commercial projects make front-page news, it is interesting to note that there is also vibrant growth in mid-size commercial projects, ranging from 50kW-500 kW. Today, the total capacity of solar installed in the PJM region (solar projects in the mid-Atlantic region) is 262 MW, of which 83 MW comes from systems in the 50 kW-500 kW range. Moreover, the mid-size commercial project segment has shown steady growth, adding approximately 26 MW each year since 2009.

Large solar projects face significant financing hurdles because millions of dollars of capital are required, but these projects also fetch the attention of large banks, energy suppliers and tax equity investors. Mid-size commercial projects face the daunting challenge of financing their projects with less visibility, but they can be successful if they make use of all the available incentives and financing tools.

Many mid-size commercial developers and installers can help the customer through the process for applying to federal and state grants; however, monetizing the Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) is often more difficult. SREC markets are complex for two main reasons. First, SREC markets differ across various states depending on the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) and Solar Alternative Compliance Payment (SACP), the fee paid by energy suppliers for non-compliance of RPS requirements. Second, SREC markets have been known to be fairly volatile due to legislation changes and variations in supply and demand. These challenges can be mitigated by finding a stable partner with long-term SREC contracts who can help system owners navigate the legislation, and provide security of cash flow payments which allow system owners to accurately determine their payback period.

Investing in a mid-size commercial solar project is a sizeable investment for a small business owner or homeowner, thereby making it imperative to ask some difficult questions to the SREC aggregator or financier. The most important question to ask the SREC aggregator is: “Are your customer contracts backed up with energy supplier contracts?” If an SREC aggregator has long term contracts with energy suppliers, then the SREC firm has foresight into future SREC prices and can offer a fair, guaranteed rate. On the contrary, if an SREC aggregator is speculating on price and hoping to sell the SRECs in the spot market at a future date without any security of a long term agreement, their customer is exposed to a lot more SREC market risk. System owners should also be aware of the other factors that shape the SREC markets, like regulatory changes, rapid adoption of solar, and market shifts due to large-scale solar projects.

Being the oldest and largest SREC aggregator in the country, Sol Systems has matched a majority of its long-term SREC contracts with its energy supplier contracts, thereby providing the market stability and flexibility that mid-size commercial customers seek. Today, Sol Systems works with over 200 developers and installers in financing mid-size commercial solar projects. More information can be found at www.solsystemscompany.com.

Sol Systems is Hiring: Solar Analyst

Sol Systems is hiring (2) part-time Solar Analysts / Interns.

The ideal candidate will be a current student or a recent graduate that is: resourceful, detail oriented, and passionate about the development of renewable energy. A successful Solar Analyst will possess the following skills and attributes:
1. Intermediate to advanced understanding of Microsoft Excel
2. Excellent research and persuasive writing skills
3. The ability to understand a complex and evolving market
4. A demonstrable interest in: energy, renewable energy, energy finance, project finance, entrepreneurship, and/or renewable energy legislation and regulations
5. Enthusiasm and a great attitude

The Solar Analyst will be critical to the success of a dynamic company in a nascent industry. The Solar Analyst will assist with registration processes, administrative duties, and discrete research projects. The Analyst will be expected to respond to customer queries, research industry news, write timely blogs, and provide clearly defined deliverables. The position will require attention to detail, excellent record keeping, and efficient allocation of time and resources.

Through this position, the Solar Analyst will gain familiarity with solar renewable energy credit (SREC) legislation, solar finance mechanisms, solar industry news, solar industry language, as well as new product development in a fast paced, start-up environment. The position will provide a fantastic launching pad for a career in renewable energy.

Commitment & Compensation: The internship will last for a term of at least 3 months (with the understanding that students will take time off for the holidays). Applicants will be expected to work 10 or more hours each week. Solar Analysts will be paid a stipend of $2,000, or an amount commensurate with the length of the commitment and prior experience. Successful candidates will be eligible for a full time position.

To Apply: Please submit a resume and cover letter (no more than one page each) to intern@solsystemscompany.com. Qualified candidates will be subsequently asked for a writing sample and three professional or academic references.

Applications for this position will be accepted immediately and reviewed on a rolling basis. Preference will be given to applicants that can work out of our downtown DC office two days a week.

About the Company: Sol Systems is a solar energy finance firm primarily involved in the purchase, aggregation, and sale of solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) in the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest. Sol Systems was founded with the intention of facilitating the development of the solar energy market. The company is based in downtown Washington DC.

Sol Systems Supports the Rebuild Sudan Foundation

Sol Systems sponsored a fundraiser in Washington DC this evening for the Rebuild Sudan Foundation, a small non-profit dedicated to developing and constructing schools for children in southern Sudan as well as other critical infrastructure. Rebuild‘s founder, Michael Kuany spoke to a group of young professional’s about his vision for the future of Sudan, and the journey that has helped shape and drive his passion.

As Michael noted this evening, “Education is family for so many. With education people do not need to fight wars.”

Rebuild Sudan is currently working on a multipurpose school in Jalle Payam. Construction is slated to begin in November 2010. “We had many motivations and principles in mind during the development of this project. First and foremost was to build a safe place for the children of Jalle, especially girls and orphans, to receive a primary education,” said Michael. The school will include a public library, a computer center and meeting/performance space and the building is designed to be environmentally friendly, with walls constructed of stabilized earthen plaster using soil excavated for the latrines.

Michael Kuany is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, more than 27,000 boys of the Dinka ethnic group who were displaced and/or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). Approximately 2 million people were killed during this war; 4 million people lost their homes and became refugees. Most of the boys were orphaned or separated from their families when government troops from the north systematically attacked villages in southern Sudan, killing many of the inhabitants, most of whom were civilians.

“Michael has walked a long path and his journey has not been easy. It is clear that his life is guided by his principals and his passion to bring good back to his country and build a future for children through education. This is exactly the type of organization that Sol Systems is proud to sponsor,” noted Yuri Horwitz, CEO and President of Sol Systems.

About Sol Systems
Sol Systems is a Washington D.C. based solar energy finance and development firm that was built on the principle that solar energy should be an economically viable energy solution. Sol Systems enables solar developers, homeowners, and businesses to fully realize the value of their solar energy systems by providing them with a range of options for selling their SRECs. To date, Sol Systems has helped over 1,100 customers with projects ranging from 1 kW to over 1 MW realize the value of their SRECs. Sol Systems currently operates in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia and has partnerships in place with over 100 solar installers and developers. For more information, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

The Massachusetts Solar Carve Out Program and SREC Market

If you are a homeowner or business owner with a solar electric system located in the state of Massachusetts, you now have the opportunity to significantly improve the economics of your solar project and receive income for the solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) associated with the electricity you will be generating from your solar energy system. Because the Massachusetts SREC market is so new, Sol Systems thought it may be useful to summarize the Solar Carve Out Program and highlight some of the available options for selling your SRECs.

What is the Massachusetts Solar Carve Out Program?
In January of this year, Massachusetts implemented a Solar Carve Out Program as part of the Green Communities Act of 2008. As a result, Massachusetts utilities must now provide a portion of their total energy load from solar power generated from photovoltaic (PV) systems located within the state. This year the Minimum Standard, which is the total solar capacity that all utilities must procure, is 30 MW and is spread proportionally across all local utilities. If a utility is unable to meet the requirement by producing solar electricity on its own, it must purchase SRECs from independent PV system owners (like homeowners or businesses) or face a penalty called an Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP). For load contracted after 2010, the ACP is set at $600/MWh (higher than most states with a solar carve out program) and for load contracted prior to 2010, the ACP is set at a much lower value of roughly $60.

How does the Solar Carve Out Program Benefit Solar Project Owners?
The benefit of the solar carve out program is that solar project owners in Massachusetts can now secure a higher value for the green attributes associated with their solar electricity. Previously, the green attributes of a solar energy system were valued under a different program and were selling for only $10-40/credit. The new ACPs offer the potential for SRECs to sell at a much higher price.

How much are SRECs in MA worth?
The value of each SREC in MA depends on a variety of factors including the ACP, SREC supply, and SREC demand. Since there are two ACPs in effect until load contracted prior to 2010 phases out, there is a bit of uncertainty over where SREC prices will settle during the initial years. However, as the market is likely to be undersupplied this first year, many solar stakeholders are hoping that spot market SREC prices will settle closer to the $600 ACP.

If a PV system owner opts to enter a long term contract for a fixed SREC price, the value of each SREC is likely to be lower than spot market prices. However, in exchange for the lower price, the owner get added security knowing that they have a predictable source of income, regardless of where spot market prices end up in the long run.

What is the Solar Credit Clearinghouse Program?
The ACP mentioned above is designed to set the ceiling for SREC prices, the Solar Credit Clearinghouse, however, is designed to set the SREC floor price. If a PV system owner is unable to find a short term or long term contract for their SRECs, they may place the solar credits into the Clearinghouse, which is a fixed price auction that takes place every July. The Clearinghouse price for SRECs is set at $300, minus a 5% ($15) transaction fee.

Which projects are eligible for the program?

A PV project is eligible if the PV system meets the following specifications[i]:
• Located in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
• Is 6 MW or less
• Began operation on January 1, 2008 or later
• Is interconnected to a utility grid
• Received less than 67% of total funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

What options does Sol Systems offer for SRECS?
Sol Systems currently provides three options to help Massachusetts customers take advantage of the solar carve out program.

Option 1 - Sol Annuity. Sol Annuity provides a fixed, quarterly payment for each full SREC produced. This option removes SREC price volatility, and provides customers with a steady income stream over a five year contract term. As spot market prices change (and decrease) over time, Sol Annuity gives you consistent, guaranteed income. You can match this cash flow against a solar financing payment, such as a loan or solar power purchase agreement (PPA).

Option 2 - Sol Brokerage. Sol Brokerage lets you take advantage of high solar renewable energy certificates (SREC) spot market prices without any effort or market knowledge required. We monitor all solar renewable energy certificate trading platforms and legislative changes, and we establish an aggressive floor price that reflects current market conditions. As the market changes, you’ll receive payment for solar RECs at prices that are between our achievable floor price and the ACP.

Option 3 - Sol Flex. Sol Flex is a hybrid option between Sol Annuity and Sol Brokerage. This option provides a guaranteed base price for your SRECs for 5 years, but also allows you to benefit from upside and profit sharing, if the spot market performs above the base price.

Regardless of which option you choose, Sol Systems will take care of registering your system with the appropriate regulatory agencies. All you have to do is sign up with Sol Systems and we’ll take care of the rest. Customers that are interested in working with Sol Systems should contact us for more information. We can lead you through the simple registration process and get you set up to receive SREC income.

About Sol Systems
Sol Systems is a Washington D.C. based solar energy finance and development firm that was built on the principle that solar energy should be an economically viable energy solution. Sol Systems enables solar developers, homeowners, and businesses to fully realize the value of their solar energy systems by providing them with a range of options for selling their SRECs. To date, Sol Systems has helped over 1,100 customers, with projects ranging from 1 kW to over 1 MW, realize the value of their SRECs.

Sol Systems currently operates in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia and has partnerships in place with over 100 solar installers and developers. For more information, please visit www.solsystemscompany.com.

Contact
Phone: 888-235-1538 x1
Email: info@solsystemscompany.com
Website: www.solsystemscompany.com

California’s HomeBuyer Solar Option Sets Example for Growth of Distributed Solar Generation

California continues to prove its leadership in advancing the solar industry by instituting a new HomeBuyer Solar Option and Solar Offset Program to promote distributed solar development. The HomeBuyer Solar Option requires residential real estate developers to offer a solar photovoltaic energy system option to all new home buyers. Developers who do not participate in the HomeBuyer Solar option will be required to set up a solar offset system in which they generate an equivalent amount of solar electricity on another project.

This program is revolutionary because it specifically incentivizes the development of “distributed generation” electricity. Distributed generation, unlike centralized generation from large fossil-fuel power plants and renewable energy farms, reduces the amount of energy lost during electricity transmission and helps Independent System Operators (ISOs) mitigate congestion in the transmission lines.

States such as New Jersey, District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and Delaware have set up aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which promote the development of solar energy and create markets for Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs). However, if these states wish to incentivize the promotion of distributed solar generation, it is important that they follow California’s lead in creating specific incentives for residential solar development.

If the 375,000 new homes sold across the U.S.* were equipped with a 5kW solar photovoltaic system, an additional 2,250 MWh would be generated each year. This would be sufficient to meet their energy demand for approximately six months.

*2009 Census- new home sales in U.S.
**Energy Information Administration- Table 5 Average Monthly Bill by Census Division, and State

As the Federal RES Evolves, What Does it Mean for Solar?

This last September, the U.S. Senate introduced the Renewable Electricity Promotion Act of 2010, Senate Bill 3813, a stand-alone Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) that will require sellers of electricity to retail customers to obtain certain percentages of their electric supply from renewable energy resources. If S. 3813 looks familiar, it should. The legislation is what remains of comprehensive climate change legislation that was introduced in the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 S.1462. This is therefore perhaps the last chance for any comprehensive federal approach to climate change or renewable energy prior to the next election.

So what does it mean for solar energy? In sum, it doesn’t hurt solar, but its immediate effects may not help much either. The proposed alternative compliance payment (ACP), which is the penalty energy suppliers must pay if they do not comply with their requirements is set low, especially when compared to current state RES programs such as New Jersey or D.C that have developed a foundation for a strong solar market. In addition, the portfolio of qualifying technologies may be too inclusive (by including numerous technologies the impact on any one technology is limited.

However, the legislation provides the framework, a seed of sorts, for the continued implementation and development of RES legislation nationwide. As RES markets develop nationwide, the solar industry can begin the task of adjusting to a more sustainable regulatory mechanism that is likely to help accelerate the implementation of solar technology (and others) well into the next decade. Our analysis is below.

BACKGROUND

What Does a Federal RES Do?

The federal Renewable Electricity Standard requires that a certain percentage of the electricity purchased in the country come from renewable energy resources. The purpose of an RES is to set up a competitive market in which utilities either (1) directly produce a specific amount of renewable energy based on their total load or (2) effectively purchase this renewable energy from others producing it or (3) pay a penalty. Most utilities will choose some combination of all three. In some state markets, an RES is called a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) or alternative energy portfolio standard (AEPS).

If utilities opt to go with the second strategy listed above, they usually do not purchase the energy from renewable energy resources, they simply purchase title to the “credit” associated with the renewable energy, termed a renewable energy credit (REC). Since energy can be measured in megawatt-hours (MWh), one REC represents the green attributes associated with one MWh of production from a renewable energy resource. Each time a homeowner or business produces one MWh from its solar system, it can sell the REC associated with this MWh in a competitive market. Technologies compete to produce RECs and sell them, and as these technologies scale, the supply of RECs increases, and the costs of these RECs decreases. The market is designed to drive down the costs of compliance and catalyze alternative energy technologies to scale.

CURRENT RES OVERVIEW

Volumes

The RES targets are less than the twenty to twenty-five percent recommended by most industry groups and President Obama himself this last year. The current RES requirements are below:

2012-13: 3%
2014-16: 6%
2017-18: 9%
2019-20: 12%
2021-39: 15%

The Alternative Compliance Payment

The Alternative Compliance Payment, which is the fee that electric utilities must pay in lieu of actually purchasing or producing the renewable energy credits required by the RES, is $21, adjusted for inflation. This means that for every MWH of electricity that the utility fails to supply from renewable energy, it must pay a fine of $21. The ACP effectively sets the ceiling on the value of renewable energy credits, with the caveat that there are multipliers (described below) that make some RECs more valuable than others.

Qualifying Technologies

Under the current RES, those resources include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, qualified hydropower, marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy, incremental geothermal, coal-mined methane, qualified waste-to-energy, and potentially other technologies.

Multipliers

In order to incentivize certain technologies, states (and in this case the federal government) often provide multipliers for RECs from specific technologies or locations. Under the federal RES, utilities will receive double credit for RECs produced by renewable energy systems located on Indian land (to incentivize the development of renewable energy on Indian land) and triple credit for small renewable distributed generation less than 1 MW. Although not stated, it is likely that the maximum ceiling on energy efficiency credits will conversely reduce the value of RECs produced from energy efficiency upgrades.

No Preemption

The national RES will not preempt current state RES or RPS standards. Instead, the RES is meant to set a floor for states without current RES or RPS legislation to set up trading regimes and complement preexisting state legislation. The RES is a bit like the federal Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act in this respect, both of which provide states with a blueprint which they can either accept in whole, or mimic with state-specific standards that are as strict or less strict. This is incredibly important for those states that have more favorable solar requirements than the federal RES.

National Market

It is unclear at this point whether a national market will develop because of the legislation. Currently, the legislation provides for the delegation of responsibilities to either a national trading mechanism or a more regional mechanism. States will have to figure out whether they want their REC markets to be regional, like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), or isolated, like Delaware, New Jersey, Massachusetts and others.

SREC Values

The value of solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) is typically a function of supply and demand . It is therefore unclear what the values of SRECs will be since this supply and demand will differ from state to state. Taken by itself, the legislation will not push SREC prices very high since the ACP is $21, with a potential multiplier of three ($63). However, current RPS states will likely retain their markets, and states without an RPS may develop more aggressive RPS legislation in light of the national RES.

ANALYSIS

Potential Negatives

1. The effective solar alternative compliance payment (SACP) is $63 per MWH for distributed solar energy systems (those below 1 MW in nameplate capacity). This is low enough that it is not likely to create a significant market for solar renewable energy credits (since the ACP provides a ceiling on the value of SRECs). This legislation is therefore unlikely to single-handedly develop robust markets for solar. However, as discussed below, the RES may provide the necessary legislative framework for the creation of such a market.

2. The list of qualifying “renewable energy resources” includes technologies that will be much less expensive to implement initially, and will likely flood REC markets. Solar energy, for example, is not likely to be able to compete with biomass or methane from mining.

3. Utilities can purchase energy efficiency credits. These credits are also likely to be much less valuable than SRECs, and may also flood the market – although they are limited to 26.67 percent of their overall required needs.

Potential Positives

Setting up a national RES begins to set minimum requirements, build the framework for the introduction of renewable energy legislation that many states currently do not have in an organized fashion, and develop a sustainable means by which to incentivize renewable energy. RES legislation is especially important for new technologies that may have higher up-front costs (like solar) because requirements can be structured around these costs. Although the standards may not be perfectly structured to assist solar energy at this time, most RES legislation is tweaked over time to better suite solar energy.

OUR CONCLUSION

The proposed federal RES is a good beginning, and provides a decent foundation for future legislation. Although it may not be perfect for solar initially, it forces legislators to address the important issue of alternative energy development, and provides them with a blueprint with which to do so. Our guess is that the requirements, and the ACP, will likely increase on a state-by-state basis. In the meantime, renewable energy is able to put itself on the map, and we’ve taken the first step of many in diversifying our energy infrastructure and moving towards a more sustainable future.

Pennsylvania Solar REC Market May Be Tight in 2011

If commercial-sized solar projects that have been announced in Pennsylvania are built within the next 12 months, Pennsylvania could experience a significant oversupply of solar renewable energy credits in 2011. In other words, there may be more than enough solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) available for Pennsylvania energy suppliers to meet their solar energy mandates as dictated by the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS).

By June of 2011, Pennsylvania energy suppliers are supposed to generate or purchase an estimated 33,000 SRECs pursuant to the requirements of the AEPS. This is equal to 33,000 megawatt hours of solar-generated electricity, and equates to around 27.5 MW of nameplate installed capacity.

What may be surprising is that there is already enough solar capacity registered in Pennsylvania to produce approximately 46,440 SRECs.

In addition, there have been project announcements for more than 60 MW of new commercial-scale solar projects for corporations like GlaxoSmithKline, Nestle Waters, and Air Products & Chemicals as well as systems for government organizations such as Bethlehem Area School Districts, Colonial Elementary School, and the Tioga Marine Terminal.

These large projects alone could add 72,000 SRECs to the Pennsylvania market, but SRECs from new smaller residential projects will grow as well.

What’s difficult to predict, however, is the number of large scale solar projects that will actually be built. Many states see an attrition rate of 50% or more within their grant programs. It’s likely that the termination of the Treasury ITC grant program will push construction forward in the short term, creating a bump of SREC supply in the early part of 2011, but that may undermine solar development through the rest of the year.

If both residential and projects expand to their full potential, Pennsylvania could see an oversupply of more than 100,000 SRECs in 2011-12.

What does this mean for SREC prices in Pennsylvania?
Basic economics tell us that a rise in supply with no change in demand puts downward pressure on prices. However, it’s hard to say with certainty what will happen to SREC prices because Pennsylvania’s unique legislation dictates that the Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP) for energy suppliers who do not meet the AEPS must pay a penalty equal to 200% of the prior year SREC prices. Because the ACP is not fixed at a certain rate (like New Jersey), SREC prices in Pennsylvania have more variability.

Actual SREC prices depend on when energy suppliers contract for SRECs and what prices they negotiate with solar energy system owners. Energy suppliers and solar owners can mitigate the risks of volatile SREC prices by locking into fixed rate SREC contracts such as the ones offered by Sol Systems. Or, they can gamble on SREC prices by using the spot market. In either case, it’s important for SREC buyers and sellers to understand their options and market dynamics before they make a decision.

Arlington, Virginia Commercial Scale Solar Development RFP

Notice to developers in the Washington DC metropolitan area: we want to share with you an RFP for commercial scale solar developments.

Arlington County has issued a Request for Proposals to pre-qualify multiple firms for installation of solar thermal and solar photovoltaic systems on County government buildings over the next 3 years. Pre-qualified firms will receive the Invitation(s) to Bid for solar installations. We anticipate these will range from 5 kW to 50+ kW in size.

As always, Sol Systems wants to remind our partners that we have SREC financing solutions to help you reduce the cost of your solar installations and win bids like these.

Maryland Clean Energy Summit 2010

Maryland’s Clean Energy Summit – October 4th, 2010 – Hilton Inner Harbor

George Ashton, Vice President and CFO of Sol Systems, the largest SREC aggregator and a leader in solar finance, will be speaking at this year’s Clean Energy Summit in Baltimore, MD. The summit will bring federal and state policy leaders together in a public forum to discuss the future of renewable energy in Maryland and the effects local policies will have on the proliferation of residential and commercial renewable energy systems.

Mr. Ashton will speak as a member of a panel discussing the future of renewable generation. One of the most critical components to solar energy projects are the monetization and sale of solar renewable energy credits (SRECs). In fact, the income secured by solar system owners from the sale of SRECs is usually greater than the actual electricity savings. Mr. Ashton will discuss the future of regional SREC markets and their ability to support growth within the state of Maryland and in the region as a whole.

Other panels include: “Discovery Drives Change”, “Forecasting the Climate for Finance”, “Transportation”, “Renewable Generation”, “Alternative Fuels & Biomass”, and “Energy Management & Built Environment”.

Invited Guests include: Congressmen John Sarbanes, Governor Martin O’Malley, and Cathy Zoi, US Department of Energy Asst. Secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

For more information on the conference, please go to: http://www.mdcleanenergysummit.org/

The NJ SREC Bubble & Importance of Long Term Contracts

by Natacha Kiler

What do the dot-com bust, the home mortgage crisis, and the NJ solar market have in common?

Lots of people started believing that their investment was certain to make them rich. Perhaps we should learn from history: when the masses start believing they are certain to get rich easily, they are likely to be wrong.

While it is true that New Jersey solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) are fetching high prices on the spot market today, they will not always get such high prices. Let’s recall the major goal of solar legislation and performance-based solar renewable energy credit (SREC) markets is to help the nascent solar industry grow and reach economies of scale in both manufacturing and installation so that solar energy becomes cost competitive with polluting fossil fuels. Legislation can do this by:

1) Making solar an attractive investment to early-adopters
2) Creating a financial penalty for energy suppliers and utilities who do not employ clean technologies

Inherent in this logic is that one day the solar industry won’t need legislation-based financial incentives to succeed.

California provides a great example of how a production based incentive is supposed to increase solar capacity while driving solar incentive costs down. The program was set up in steps so that every time a certain capacity of solar applications were queued, the incentive would drop to the next level. The idea is that the solar incentive would drive scale and help cause the costs of panels to drop, while installers learn to be more efficient at installations and drive their costs down. The starting production based incentive for Step 1 for residential systems was $390/MWh; today two of the three investor-owned utility programs have incentive levels at Step 7 ($90/MWh). As of September 1, 2010, there are 690 MWs of installed solar capacity in California, and the state is perceived to have the most successful solar market in the country.

Certainly, the legislation and market dynamics that support the New Jersey market are different than those of California, but the intent of the legislation and the driving forces will ultimately lead to the same results: more solar capacity and a decrease in the level of solar incentives.

So why do so many people in New Jersey believe that solar is a surefire investment?

There are two main reasons.

REASON 1: The Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP) for not creating or purchasing SRECs is high (currently $675/SREC with scheduled decreases annually) and the current supply of solar capacity does not generate enough SRECs to meet the legislation-driven demand.

REASON 2: Installers who want to sell more solar have an inherent incentive to lead prospective solar energy system owners to believe that SREC values will remain high because it shows a higher ROI.

Buyer beware.

The first half of reason 1 is true today, but solar capacity will not always be undersupplied. Each and every energy supplier who is subject to the ACP is trying to figure out how to avoid paying the expensive penalties. Energy suppliers can avoid these fees by developing their own solar plants or purchasing solar-generated energy from large solar farms through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).

The development of small and large solar plants will continue as long as the investment returns are good, but the more solar plants there are, the lower the returns will be. Ultimately, solar will succeed, energy suppliers won’t have to pay alternative compliance penalties and the value of SRECs will diminish.

There is no question of whether this will happen, the only question is when this will happen.

What about the installers that lead their customers to believe that SREC prices will be high? Unfortunately, we expect that some customers will get burned when they expect their surefire investment to perform and they’re left with minimal SREC payments.

Luckily, some citizens of New Jersey are starting to talk about the risks of assuming spot market rates will stay high. We expect that, over time, more and more people will recognize the importance of long term SREC contracts. There are also forthright installers who educate their customers about the risks of the spot market and offer them the option to lock their rates with long-term contracts that ensure the SREC value over time.

An Installer’s Guide to SREC Sale Strategies

by George Ashton

As a residential solar installer, you have without question been challenged by prospective customers regarding the high price tag of solar; a typical residential system (3kW in size) can cost between $18,000 and $24,000. Luckily, there are a number of incentives available at the federal, state, and local levels that you can present to your customers to help them realize that solar can be more affordable than often perceived. Federal and state incentives are relatively easy and straightforward to explain. The concept of selling SRECs, however, is more allusive and harder for customers to grasp.

Because SREC income can significantly improve a project’s economics (reducing costs by 20-40% depending on location) and can increase a customer’s return on investment, ensuring that customers understand their SREC options and take advantage of the sale options available will assist your business with closing more sales. This article provides an overview of SRECs and explains the pros and cons of different SREC sale options.

What Are SRECs?
An SREC is a tradable credit that represents the clean energy benefits of electricity generated from a solar energy system. Each time a solar system generates 1000 kWh (1 MWh) of electricity, an SREC is issued which can be sold or traded separately from the power. SRECs have high value in some states where there is legislation called a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). An RPS requires energy suppliers to either produce solar energy from their own projects or purchase credits from individuals or businesses that own solar energy systems.

How Are SREC Prices Determined?
RPS Compliance fee schedules dictate how much energy suppliers must pay for each SREC they fail to produce or acquire. As a result, SREC prices usually trade at or below the dollar amount of these compliance fees. In some states, the fee remains the same dollar amount year over year while in other states, like New Jersey and Ohio, the fee decreases over time which will result in a decrease of the price for SRECs over time.

SREC Supply
SREC supply will increase in the coming years. As solar panel prices fall, solar will become more affordable and more popular. As more solar systems are installed, more SRECs will be available on the market. Additionally, as credit markets continue to improve, more large projects will become financeable and built, resulting in more SRECs. Both of these trends will put downward pressure on SREC prices.

SREC Demand
SREC demand will also increase in the coming years. The demand for SRECs in a given state is set by RPS legislation that determines the overall number of SRECs energy suppliers are required to acquire each year, and this number quickly increases year over year in every state with an RPS. Because SRECs are a compliance commodity, if there are more SRECs supplied than demanded in a given state market, the pricing for excess SRECs will likely be equivalent to pricing seen on voluntary SREC markets, which today trade at $15-$30 per credit.

What are the Options for Selling SRECs and the Risks of Each Option?
Selling SRECs on the open market is analogous to day trading in the stock market. Your customers may make good money, but there is no certainty with regards to their long-term profitability. If SREC prices fall for any of the reasons mentioned above, they will receive a lot less for their SRECs. This option is best recommended for SREC sellers who do not rely on SREC proceeds to pay for the cost of a solar energy system and have a little extra time on their hands to monitor the market.

Selling SRECs into a long-term contract can be a strategy that provides adequate returns, but with less risk than selling on the open market. A typical long-term contract offers a fixed price per SREC for a 3-5 year term. By choosing this option, your customers will know exactly how much income they will receive over the contract term. However, the true value of a long-term SREC offer depends heavily on what supports that offer.

The most secure offers come directly from energy suppliers as they are the ultimate purchasers of all compliance eligible SRECs. However, very few energy suppliers offer contracts directly to non-commercial system owners. The next best offer is a contract from a select few SREC companies that back up their promises to purchase SRECs with their own long-term contracts to sell those SRECs to energy suppliers. These SREC companies have negotiated to sell your SRECs to energy suppliers at a specific price for 3-10 years at a time and can pass that guarantee on to you. Beware of SREC companies offering long-term contracts that have not negotiated fixed price long-term contracts to sell SRECs. If they have nothing to support their promises, and the market price falls, it will be difficult for them to honor your customer’s contracts.

Selling your SRECs for an upfront, lump sum payment is the SREC market’s version of a risk free investment; the return is a noticeably lower than the other options, but there is absolutely no risk. With this option, you will sell the rights to your future SRECs in exchange for a discounted one-time payment received close to the date of installation. You keep that money regardless of what happens to SREC markets. This option is recommended for solar energy system owners that are risk averse or having trouble with accessing financing through banks.

Educating your customers on all three SREC sale options and helping them evaluate their risk tolerance and financial needs will be a key strategy to selling more solar energy systems. The metrics presented in this article should help you identify the best route for your customers. Regardless of which option a customer chooses, monetizing their SRECs will play a critical role in financing their solar energy system.

George Ashton is Vice President and CFO of Sol Systems, a solar energy finance company located in Washington DC.

A Secondary Market for SRECs In California?

In California, the environmental attributes of solar electricity are bundled with the electricity; in fact, they are not allowed to be separated. For this reason, the environmental attributes of solar-generated electricity, or Solar Renewable Energy Credits are not tradable as compliance commodities. This means there is no secondary market for Solar Renewable Energy Credits (“SRECs”) in California. However, this may change.

The people of California have been trying to create an SREC market since 2006 when the California Assembly passed Senate Bill 107 (the “Bill”). This Bill granted authority for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to develop and administer a secondary market for Tradable Renewable Energy Credits (TRECs).

Three years later, in March 2010, the CPUC issued a decision establishing the rules and regulations that would structure California’s future secondary SREC market. The regulations proposed an alternative compliance penalty of $50.00 for 2010 and 2011; this amount would effectively serve as the ceiling value for the TRECs. (This is a relatively low value when compared to more robust SREC markets such as New Jersey and Maryland). However, the CPUC sidelined their decision in May 2010, and that is where the secondary SREC market sits today in California. The decision was sidelined in response to concerns expressed by investor owned utilities (IOUs) and energy suppliers.

However, a new bill in the State Assembly proposes a legal framework for a secondary SREC market in California. The details of this new bill are not firm enough to offer a good viewpoint on what a future SREC market may look like in California.

In the meantime, California solar energy system owners must sell their electricity and attributes bundled.  Systems sited outside of the state of California can enter into Power Purchase Agreements with California IOUs, to sell their bundled electricity and attributes.  However these systems must be located within the Western Regional Energy Generation Information System (WREGIS).  If, and when, California’s laws change, Sol Systems will be there to develop the SREC market for our customers.

The End of Renewables As a Political Issue

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently noted that solar electricity could represent up to 20% to 25% of total global electricity production by 2050 based on their Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Roadmap and Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Roadmap, which are meant to assist governments, industry and financial partners accelerate energy technology development and uptake. The report concluded that PV technology will become competitive globally by 2030 on the utility-scale in some of the areas with the best insolation given the right climatic factors. Further, the report indicates that PV has the potential to provide more than eleven percent of all electricity worldwide.

This analysis is good news for those of us in the solar energy space; however, the stated assumption is that governments, like the United States, will implement more concerted policies to facilitate solar energy. Even as some argue that solar energy will soon pass cost parity with nuclear energy, solar energy will likely remain at a competitive disadvantage to traditional fossil fuels unless governments implement policies that recognize the numerous positive externalities of solar energy.

One may wonder: is this political support likely in a country that has failed to pass a comprehensive energy bill? Are the key political drivers that change how our government engages and incentivizes the development of solar and other renewables changing? Will they in the future?

Answer: Almost certainly so. The political and economic interests that have prevented a significant comprehensive approach to solar energy and other renewable energies are changing, and will continue to change dramatically.
Perhaps the single largest driver for political change is the economic change that has taken place in this country in the last two decades. As detailed in a fascinating article in the Washington Post by David Callahan, the United States has moved from a country where thirty-seven percent (37%) of the wealth for the country’s top 400 individuals came from oil and manufacturing in 1982 to merely seventeen percent (17%) in 2006. An overwhelming number of the richest individuals (and the largest political contributors) now represent industries such as finance and technology.

The political implications of these changes are enormous. Currently, according to Open Secrets, an estimated 17.4 percent of all state and national campaign dollars come from the top 100 donors, a hugely disproportionate share. As the political clout of traditional energy wanes, the clout of other industries has grown.

As Callahan points out, although John McCain far outraised Obama among employees of energy and natural resources companies in 2008, pulling in $4 million from this group, Obama simply went elsewhere, and raised $25.5 million from the finance and technology sector. Similarly, he oil and gas industry has been a traditional source of GOP cash and was consistently among the top 10 sources of money for federal candidates for decades, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2008, it moved down to 16th. The entire energy and natural resources sector gave $77 million in campaign donations while lawyers gave $234 million, more than three times as much.

Moreover, many of the individuals in the financial and technology sector are committed to renewable energy. Last year, for example, George Soros pledged to make $1 billion in renewable-energy investments and other billionaires, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, are also investing in the sector. Companies are doing the same. Google recently became an independent power producer with the creation of its affiliate, Google Energy LLC, so that it could purchase renewable energy for its large data centers and also purchase energy futures to hedge against an increase in electricity prices.

To make things more interestingly, Google’s most recent purchase of wind energy was from NextEra Energy Resources. NextEra is none other than large utility Florida Power and Light, which changed its name in January of 2009 to better market its commitment to renewable energy. Other utilities, including Duke, First Energy, Pepco Holdings Inc. and others have all made similar commitments to developing renewable energy resources either through direct development, or by helping to finance other projects. Exelon Energy, for example, recently developed a 10 MW solar project called City Solar that will provide energy to over a thousand homes.

In sum, the economic constituency is shifting towards solar energy and other renewables, and so too will the political constituency. The new economy is producing a powerful group of companies and individuals that are committed to fundamentally changing the politics and economics of renewable energy; politicians, both Republicans and Democrats alike, will not be able to ignore this constituency.

The result is an emerging political consensus, among both Democrats and Republicans, traditional energy businesses and financial ones, that renewable energy resources like solar must be supported. This may be through a carbon cap and trade legislation, but more likely the proliferation of solar energy systems will occur through a more incremental approach such as a national renewable portfolio standard and economic incentives like solar renewable energy credits (SRECs). In either case, renewable energy will emerge in the next five years as a non-political issue, and our guess is that the required market incentives to ensure the success of solar energy and other technologies will be implemented.

Are SRECs taxable?

Today, many people are inclined to believe that income from solar renewable energy credits (“SRECs”) is not taxable because (1) the IRS does not have any publication or rule related to income received from the sale of SRECs and (2) the IRS has said that the sale of SRECs does not fit within the transaction types that would initiate the generation of a 1099 form.

However, one should consider that the underlying presumption of SREC income not being taxable is: SREC income is not “profit” – or at least SREC income is not profit for the vast majority of system owners who use SREC income to pay back the initial costs of investment. (In the majority of states where Sol Systems operates, the average system payback takes 4-8 years, although it can be shorter or longer depending on state incentives and SREC values).

What happens when the solar energy system is paid off? When the system is paid off, there is a chance that SREC income would be considered profit. In that case, the IRS may decide to tax SREC income and systems owners would need to disclose that source of revenue.

Taxing SREC income would be detrimental to the solar industry and for that reason, it is very important for solar installers to educate their customers on this matter. It would also be prudent for solar energy system owners to talk with a tax professional about their solar energy investment.

Please note that Sol Systems is not an official tax advisor and cannot give tax advice. We recommend that prospective and current system owners consult a tax accountant regarding their individual financial situations.

Sol Systems will continue to research this topic and inform our customers and partners as we become aware of any changes.

The Future Outlook of the Connecticut SREC Market

Earlier this year, Connecticut state legislators Rep. Vickie Nardello and Sen. John Fonfara introduced an energy reform bill that was posed to change the Connecticut renewable landscape and establish a market for Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs). Solar enthusiasts celebrated the potential of ‘Bill 493 – An Act Reducing Electricity Costs and Promoting Renewable Energy’ to reduce consumer electricity rates, create green jobs, and reduce CO2 emissions. It was passed in both the House and Senate, but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Jodi Rell when it reached her desk. The governor expressed her support of the intent behind the bill, but concluded that the proposed legislation would in fact increase electricity costs, estimating a $1.4 billion price tag for the bill that would be footed by Connecticut taxpayers.

The status of solar energy financing in Connecticut remains at a standstill with no SREC market in 2010 and limited state rebates. The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, which provides residential system owners with a state rebate of up to $15,000, has reopened but will soon be fully subscribed. As a result, it is possible that many installers and developers will move into states with solar-friendly legislation including Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Ohio. However, there is still hope for renewable energy and green jobs on the horizon. Dan Malloy, a potential Democratic candidate for Governor, has publicly stated that he would have signed the bill if it had been his decision. The election will take place on November 2nd and if he is chosen to serve the highest office in the Nutmeg State he may be able to reverse Gov. Rell’s decision and forge ahead with a Connecticut SREC market.

As New Jersey Announces a New Round of Solar Funding, SRECs Remain Prominent in Project Finance

After several weeks of uncertainty, the New Jersey solar energy rebate program set a start date of September 1st, 2010 for the third funding cycle for solar energy systems. Known as the Renewable Energy Incentive Program (REIP), the program has been extremely popular with New Jersey homeowners looking to take advantage of the state solar incentives. In the previous round of funding in April, 2010 more than 1,000 applications were received within the first week – despite the fact that incentives had been lowered from $1.75 per watt to $1.35 for residential installations. The popularity of the program caused a delay in the new round of funding which was finally confirmed last week.

The current cycle of funding will offer $0.75 per watt in incentives limited to the first 7.5 kW of solar installations. Excluded from funding eligibility are commercially owned systems as well as all systems over 10kW. The current rates mark the lowest incentive offerings by the REIP since its inception.

Overall the REIP program has been very successful in making solar energy more affordable. However, as REIP incentives are scaled down and applications for incentives are backlogged, homeowners interested in installing solar energy are relying more heavily on SREC income to finance their solar energy systems. New Jersey SRECs remain the most valuable in the country and as state incentives decrease, SRECs will play an even larger role in making solar energy affordable to homeowners across the state.

Currently,  NJ homeowners and businesses interested in SREC financing have three different options to monetize their SRECs, each of which are available through Sol Systems: multi-year fixed-price contracts (Sol Annuity), upfront payment for SRECs (Sol Upfront), and a short-term market-based option which allows owners to sell SRECs at their current spot-market value (Sol Brokerage).

For more information on Sol Systems products, please click here. For more information on solar energy rebates and incentives in the state of New Jersey, please visit the Database of  State Incentives for Energy and Efficiency.

Sol Systems to Present at SEIA Solar Road Show

Sol Systems’ President and CEO, Yuri Horwitz, will be presenting at National SEIA’s road show conference on May 10, 2010 in Philadelphia.  The conference is tailored for small businesses and designed to give them the tools and information to maximize revenue and business growth.  Topics will include the following:

  • Latest policy and market information
  • SEIA’s installer campaign, including free marketing materials and legal resources to grow
  • New financing opportunities
  • State policies to benefit installers and their customers.

Horwitz will be presenting on the solar renewable energy credit (SREC) market and SREC financing for homeowners and businesses.  Horwitz will also be addressing market factors, such as supply and demand, for the Mid-Atlantic states.

The meeting will run from 10am to 4pm and will take place at the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the downtown Marriot Hotel.  For those interested in registering they can explore the opportunity here or register by email with pvdivision.rsvp@seia.org.