Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Court overturns PSC determination that allowed household to lease photo voltaic vitality system


Clean vitality advocates say a latest court docket determination is a setback for efforts to develop residential photo voltaic vitality use in Wisconsin.

Last week, a Dane County court docket overturned a 2022 Public Service Commission determination that will have allowed a Stevens Point household to make use of third-party financing to put in photo voltaic on their residence.

Under the settlement, the household will lease the system from North Wind Renewable Energy Cooperative. Similar lease agreements are widespread in different states, however utilities oppose their use in Wisconsin, saying they don’t seem to be allowed below current state legislation.

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The Stevens Point household offered their residence and didn’t proceed with the mission, in keeping with North Wind Founder Josh Stolzenburg.

However, the Wisconsin Utilities Association final yr challenged the PSC’s determination in Dane County Circuit Court.

On Friday, the court docket sided with the utility affiliation, sending the problem again to the Public Service Commission. The court docket stated that the PSC misinterpreted what constitutes a “public utility” in its determination as a result of it centered on one mission and never on North Wind’s actions usually.

State legislation defines a “public utility” as any entity that owns, operates, manages or controls gear used for “transmitting, conveying or offering warmth, mild, water or energy instantly or not directly, to or for the general public.”

Utilities are significantly against third-party financing for photo voltaic installations, saying it violates state legislation by permitting installers to behave as a utility with out being regulated as one.

“We are happy with the court docket’s determination that affirms our place that for those who present vitality to the general public, whether or not instantly or not directly, you have to be regulated as a public utility,” stated Bill Skewes, Wisconsin government director. Utilities Association. in an e-mail.

But renewable vitality advocates framed the court docket’s determination as a serious setback for Wisconsin householders searching for inexpensive clear vitality.

In a press release, Will Kenworthy, regulatory director for the nonprofit Vote Solar, an intervenor within the Dane County court docket case, stated the ruling limits the proper of consumers to handle their vitality use and favors earnings. within the utility.

“This is a violation of the elemental rights of customers and can deepen current inequalities inside our vitality system, the place monetary boundaries forestall people from accessing clear vitality options, ” he stated.

A spokeswoman for the Public Service Commission declined to remark, saying the company doesn’t touch upon pending court docket circumstances.

Solar panels on a garage
A storage with photo voltaic panels on the roof to generate electrical energy for a close-by house is seen in Billings, Montana on Thursday, May 23, 2019. Matthew Brown/ AP Photo

At least 29 different states have allowed third-party financing for photo voltaic installations by 2021, in keeping with North Carolina State University’s NC Clean Energy Technology Center.

Chelsea Chandler, local weather, vitality and air program director for Clean Wisconsin, says the legality of third-party financing for residential photo voltaic installations has been unclear for a very long time.

He stated the PSC’s determination in 2022 sought to make clear the foundations, however that clarification was successfully nullified by the court docket’s latest determination.

Chandler additionally stated that many low- to moderate-income households need to put money into rooftop photo voltaic, however the upfront value is a serious barrier. Allowing households to lease their system, he stated, would assist make photo voltaic extra accessible and inexpensive.

“Solar has an excellent payback interval over time, and it saves residents cash over the lifetime of the panels,” he stated. “But particularly for low-income folks, who do not have a whole lot of financial savings, coping with that cash is a barrier (that makes it) inconceivable for some folks.”

Chandler stated low- and moderate-income households in Wisconsin might get assist putting in solar energy by $62.4 million awarded to the state by the Biden Administration on Earth Day. But he stated that’s not the one resolution.

“We have very low total penetration of rooftop photo voltaic in Wisconsin, and there’s big, big untapped potential,” Chandler stated.

The authorized ambiguity of third-party financing in Wisconsin can be holding again builders, comparable to North Wind, Stolzenburg stated.

He stated that there are non-profits and households that use third-party financing, however the darkness of the legislation prevents them from pursuing it.

Brad Klein, a senior legal professional for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, stated his agency is taking a detailed take a look at the Dane County court docket order and is contemplating an attraction. He stated the corporate could take the case to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals or presumably the state Supreme Court.

“There are different steps which might be completely different on this specific case,” Klein stated. “There could also be extra petitions to the fee based mostly on completely different units of information or legislative exercise on this topic. I believe this circuit court docket opinion is certainly not the ultimate phrase on this challenge.”

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