How virtual net metering will save Massachusetts residents $60 million

How virtual net metering will save Massachusetts residents $60 million

A little-known solar financing plan not available in many states will allow Massachusetts low income housing tenants to save state taxpayers $60 million over the 2 decades.

Solar arrays funded, built, operated, and maintained by SunEdison, will deliver their 39.5 megawatts of nameplate capacity from 10 locations across Massachusetts to the states grid. The net metering credits they earn, as mandated by Massachusetts virtual net metering (VNM) law, will be credited to the electricity bills of 16 housing authorities (HAs).

Because of the VNM law, the HAs will be able purchase the credits from SunEdison at negotiated power purchase agreement (PPA) prices some 15% to 25% below the retail rate they would otherwise pay for electricity, according to SunEdison Managing Director for Sales Steve Raeder.

SunEdison was also able to provide each HA a contract and price molded to its needs and electricity use. The end result is a cumulative $60 million or more in savings for the HAs over the 20 year terms of the contracts.

Housing authorities in New Bedford, Brockton, Somerville, Barnstable, Fairhaven, Fall River, Gardner, Leominster, Northampton, Plymouth, Somerset, and Winchendon are participating.

There are over 100 housing authorities in Massachusetts, added SunEdison Director of New England Sales Jarryd Commerford. This is a set it and forget it deal for them that allows them to save up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in electricity.

Those savings come from often limited, taxpayer-funded budgets, he added. The savings free up funding. The housing authorities can spend their money on other types of programs and that indirectly benefits people who live in public housing.
The deal

One of the key factors in the savings calculation, Raeder said, was the conservative assumption of a 1.5% to 2% yearly retail electricity rate increase. We think it will go up more and as it goes up, the housing authorities will save more money because they are locked into fixed contracts.

SunEdison and its financial partners provided all funding. By leveraging the other typical opportunities available to solar developers like the 30% federal Investment Tax Credit and the solar renewable energy credits, Raeder explained, SunEdison was able to retain a competitive rate of return.  

There is further leverage in its ability to roll the solar assets into its TerraForm Power YieldCo, through which new revenue can be generated from them. More cost-offsetting remuneration is possible in the arrays being operated and maintained by the SunEdison Renewable Operations Center (ROC), an around the clock facility with global reach based in California, Raeder noted.
The Massachusetts angle

In most states, such a deal could not happen because there is no virtual net metering.

Massachusetts utilities are bound by the VNM law, Commerford explained, to provide credits to the customer of record for the amount of electricity on the meter at the generation site.

The Massachusetts law is much different than in any other state because you just allocate credits to whomever and however you want, explained EQ Research Policy Analyst Chelsea Barnes. Other state laws provide a range of possible allocations but in Massachusetts it almost resembles selling electricity.

Source: Utility Dive

Smart Grid Bulletin May 2018

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22 June 2018