HOUSE BILL 338
53rd legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2017
Patricia Roybal Caballero
RELATING TO UTILITIES; ENACTING THE COMMUNITY SOLAR GARDENS ACT; AMENDING SECTION 62-8-6 NMSA 1978 (BEING LAWS 1941, CHAPTER 84, SECTION 42, AS AMENDED) RELATED TO PUBLIC UTILITIES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
SECTION 1. [NEW MATERIAL] SHORT TITLE.--Sections 1 through 8 of this act may be cited as the "Community Solar Gardens Act".
SECTION 2. [NEW MATERIAL] LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS.--The legislature finds that:
A. it is in the public interest that broader participation in solar electric generation by New Mexico residents and commercial entities be encouraged by the development and deployment of distributed solar electric generation facilities known as community solar gardens;
B. community solar gardens can provide New Mexico residents and commercial entities with an opportunity to participate in solar generation, in addition to the opportunities otherwise available through customer-sited distributed solar generation on homes and businesses, by allowing renters, low-income utility customers and persons without suitable locations for solar generation on their premises to participate in local solar generation facilities;
C. the development of solar generation will be facilitated by allowing interests in community solar generation facilities to be portable and transferable;
D. community solar gardens can leverage New Mexico's solar generating capacity through economies of scale relative to customer-sited distributed solar generation;
E. programs to enable community solar gardens should ensure that low-income residential customers have opportunities to participate; and
F. the development and deployment of community solar can create local jobs and otherwise contribute to economic development, can result in a more diverse energy portfolio and can contribute to the conservation of New Mexico's water resources.
SECTION 3. [NEW MATERIAL] DEFINITIONS.--As used in the Community Solar Gardens Act:
A. "community solar garden" means a solar electric generation facility that has subscribers who are allocated a share of the electricity generated in proportion to the size of their subscription;
B. "commission" means the public regulation commission;
C. "low-income residential customer" means a customer with an annual household income at or below the median household income for New Mexico, as published by the United States census bureau;
D. "public utility" means an entity certified by the commission to provide retail electric service in New Mexico pursuant to the Public Utility Act but does not include a rural electric cooperative;
E. "subscriber" means a retail customer of a public utility who owns one or more subscriptions to a community solar garden and who has identified one or more physical service locations to which each subscription is attributed;
F. "subscriber organization" means an entity that owns or operates one or more community solar gardens; and
G. "subscription" means a proportional interest in solar electric generation facilities installed at a community solar garden, together with the renewable energy credits associated with or attributable to such facilities.
SECTION 4. [NEW MATERIAL] COMMUNITY SOLAR GARDEN REQUIREMENTS.--
A. A community solar garden shall have a nameplate rating of ten megawatts or less and shall not be co-located with another community solar garden where that limit is exceeded in the aggregate.
B. A community solar garden shall be located in the service territory of a public utility.
C. A community solar garden shall have at least ten subscribers.
D. No single subscriber shall hold more than a forty percent interest in a community solar garden.
E. No more than forty percent of the capacity of a community solar garden may be allocated to subscriptions larger than twenty-five kilowatts.
F. A subscriber may change the premises to which a subscription is attributed if the premises are within the service territory of the public utility.
G. Each subscription shall be sized to:
(1) represent at least one kilowatt of the community solar garden's generating capacity; and
(2) supply no more than one hundred percent of the average annual consumption of electricity by the subscriber at the premises to which the subscription is attributed, with a deduction for the amount of any existing solar facilities at the premises.
H. Subscriptions to a community solar garden may be transferred or assigned to a subscriber organization or to any person who qualifies to be a subscriber pursuant to the Community Solar Gardens Act.
SECTION 5. [NEW MATERIAL] OWNERSHIP OF COMMUNITY SOLAR GARDENS.--
A. A community solar garden shall be owned by a public utility, an affiliate of a public utility or a subscriber organization.
B. A community solar garden may be built, owned and operated by a third party under contract with a subscriber organization.
C. The owners of and the subscribers to a community solar garden shall not be considered public utilities subject to regulation by the commission solely as a result of their interest in the community solar garden.
D. Prices paid for subscriptions to community solar gardens shall not be subject to regulation by the commission.
E. Neither the costs nor the revenues attributable to a community solar garden owned by a public utility or public utility affiliate shall be considered in determining a public utility's cost of service.
F. The commission shall assure that competition among developers and owners of community solar gardens is not compromised by the actions of any public utility.
SECTION 6. [NEW MATERIAL] PURCHASES FROM COMMUNITY SOLAR GARDENS.--
A. The output from a community solar garden shall be sold only to the public utility serving the geographic area where the community solar garden is located. The public utility shall purchase all of the electricity and renewable energy credits generated by a community solar garden at a rate equal to the rate established by commission rules implementing 18 C.F.R. 292.304. At the request of a subscriber organization, the public utility shall purchase the receivables associated with subscriptions from a community solar garden at a discount rate approved by the commission.
B. The amount of electricity and renewable energy credits generated by a community solar garden shall be determined by a production meter installed by a public utility or third-party system owner; the cost of the production meter and its installation shall be paid for by the owner of the community solar garden.
C. A public utility shall sell the electricity acquired pursuant to Subsection A of this section to each community solar garden subscriber, in an amount equal to the subscriber's proportional share of the energy produced by the community solar garden. The public utility shall sell the electricity at the same rate as for the public utility's purchases pursuant to Subsection A of this section, with adjustments as determined by the commission to cover the public utility's cost of delivering electricity to the subscriber's premises, integrating the community solar garden with the public utility's system and administering contracts for community solar gardens and subscribers. A public utility shall file its rate for charges in excess of the cost of acquisition, which rate may vary by size or distance, but shall not otherwise be specific to an individual community solar garden or its subscribers. A rate filed pursuant to this subsection shall be subject to the same provision review and approval as for other rates. The commission shall ensure that charges authorized by this subsection do not reflect costs that are already recovered by the public utility from the subscriber through other charges.
D. To the extent the electricity available to a subscriber from the subscriber's interest in a community solar garden exceeds the subscriber's consumption for electricity from the public utility during a billing period, the subscriber shall not be required to purchase the excess electricity during that billing period. The subscriber shall be permitted to make an equivalent purchase of electricity in a subsequent billing period that is no more than twelve months later during which the subscriber's electricity demand from the public utility exceeds the subscriber's share of the production of the community solar garden.
E. The owner of a community solar garden with a nameplate capacity above two megawatts shall provide real-time production data to the public utility to facilitate incorporation of the community solar garden's generation of electricity into the public utility's operation of its electric system.
F. The subscriber organization for a community solar garden shall, on a monthly basis, provide to a public utility the kilowatt hours of electrical generation attributable to each subscriber participating in the community solar garden, in accordance with the subscriber's share of the output of the community solar garden. The subscriber organization shall electronically transmit such documentation to the public utility monthly, in a format approved by the commission, so that the public utility can reflect the proper allocation on the subscriber's utility bill.
SECTION 7. [NEW MATERIAL] LOW-INCOME RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMERS.--
A. To the extent practical and achievable, the commission shall ensure that ten percent of the total generating capacity of a community solar garden operated pursuant to the Community Solar Gardens Act is made available to low-income residential customers or entities serving such customers.
B. To the extent not otherwise prohibited by law, funds available for low-income energy-assistance programs may be used to enable the participation of low-income residential customers in programs authorized by the Community Solar Gardens Act.
SECTION 8. [NEW MATERIAL] COMMISSION RULES.--
A. On or before October 1, 2017, the commission shall commence a rulemaking proceeding to adopt rules as necessary to implement the Community Solar Gardens Act and shall adopt appropriate rules on or before May 1, 2018.
B. Rules adopted by the commission pursuant to Subsection A of this section shall facilitate the financing of subscriber-owned community solar gardens. Such rules shall include:
(1) minimum capitalization;
(2) the share of a community solar garden's eligible solar electric generation facilities that a subscriber organization may at any time own in its own name; and
(3) authorization for subscriber organizations to enter into leases, sale-and-leaseback transactions, operating agreements and other ownership arrangements with third parties.
C. Rules adopted by the commission pursuant to Subsection A of this section shall address procedures by which a subscriber who ceases to be a customer at the premises on which the subscription is based but, within a reasonable period as determined by the commission, becomes a customer at another premises in the service territory of the public utility, may transfer the subscription.
D. The commission shall:
(1) develop rules to facilitate the participation of low-income residential customers in programs authorized by the Community Solar Gardens Act and entities serving low-income residential customers;
(2) develop rules ensuring that all rate classes may participate in community solar gardens;
(3) establish uniform standards, fees and processes for the interconnection of community solar garden facilities that will allow a public utility to recover a reasonable interconnection cost for each community solar garden;
(4) identify the information that shall be provided to potential subscribers to ensure fair disclosure of the estimated future cost and benefits of subscriptions; and
(5) prevent public utilities and their affiliates from unfairly competing with non-utility subscriber organizations, including prohibiting public utilities and their affiliates from making improper use of customer information that is not publicly available.
SECTION 9. Section 62-8-6 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1941, Chapter 84, Section 42, as amended) is amended to read:
"62-8-6. DISCRIMINATION.--No public utility shall, as to rates or services, make or grant any unreasonable preference or advantage to any corporation or person within any classification or subject any corporation or person within any classification to any unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage. No public utility shall establish and maintain any unreasonable differences as to rates of service either as between localities or as between classes of service. Nothing shall prohibit, however, the commission from approving economic development rates and rates designed to retain load or from approving energy efficiency programs designed to reduce the burden of energy costs on low-income customers pursuant to the Efficient Use of Energy Act or to enable the participation of customers in programs authorized under the Community Solar Gardens Act."
SECTION 10. EFFECTIVE DATE.--The effective date of the provisions of this act is July 1, 2017.
- 11 -