The Focus on Energy Renewable Energy Program had another very solid year in 2019. Late last year, the PSC approved several substantive changes in program offerings that will affect the renewable energy industry and its customers going forward. Renewable energy businesses and their customers need to learn about these changes.
First, let’s see how 2019 fared!
Focus on Energy Renewable Energy Program – 2019 Results
For non-residential customers, incentive totals declined slightly in 2019, but substantially fewer PV projects received funding: 135 in 2019 compared with 220 in 2018. At the same time, the average system size increased to 75 kW, up from 48 KW a year ago.Nearly the same number of homes received incentives in each of the past two years – 768 in 2019 compared with 750 in 2018. But more dollars were allocated in 2019 (up from $1.2 million in 2018), because system sizes were larger (7.2 KW in 2019 vs. 6.2 KW in 2018).
Geothermal continued a strong showing, with 77 total installations in 2019, compared with 68 in 2019. In addition, a small wind project received funding in 2019. No biogas projects were funded in 2019.
Changes to the Focus on Energy Renewable Energy Program for 2020
The Focus on Energy renewable energy program will undergo several important changes in 2020 – partly as a result of the trends seen in 2019. Throughout November and December 2019, the Public Service Commission voted to approve these changes, which Aptim, the Focus on Energy administrator, implemented on January 1, 2020.
First, Focus incentives for solar electric (photovoltaic or PV) projects will undergo the biggest change. In a move that many of our members desired to improve their sales cycle, Focus will be changing to “first-come, first-serve” prescriptive incentives for ALL solar PV projects starting in 2020.
However, as demand is expected to remain strong, the elimination of the competitive incentive program for larger PV projects means that fewer dollars will be available for individual projects. This is especially true for larger PV systems. Whereas a customer in 2019 could apply for a maximum incentive of $400,000 through the competitive program, this year the maximum incentive is set at $60,000.
The rationale for this change is to spread available funding across more solar PV projects and incentivize smaller PV projects. We had members with a multitude of opinions on this change, but this is what the PSC and Aptim, respectfully, have landed on.
The tables below shows the 2020 Solar PV incentive levels.
Residential Customer Solar PV Incentives
Business Customer Solar PV Incentives
At the bottom of this post, I’ve included a number of additional details about the 2020 solar program. You can learn more about 2020’s solar program at https://focusonenergy.com/residential#program-renewable-energy
Second, the competitive (RECIP) program will continue for other types of renewable energy projects, such as biogas, small wind, solar thermal, or biomass technologies. The hope is that by taking solar PV out of that competitive program, other technologies may have a better chance of getting funded.
Third, geothermal technologies will be moving out of the Renewable Energy Program in 2020. Residential geothermal incentives will be $750, and information can, for now, still be found under the residential renewable energy page. For buildings (i.e. “non-residential”) installations, geothermal will be treated like any “custom” energy efficiency measure.
Fourth, for Biogas there will still be grants available to conduct Biogas Feasibility Studies in amounts up to $15,000. In addition, biogas projects can compete in the RECIP competitive grant process. You can learn more about these opportunities at https://focusonenergy.com/business/renewables.
Here are additional details on the Focus on Energy Solar PV Program for 2020. These details were provided by Focus on Energy in late 2019 via email to their renewable energy trade allies.
Summary of Renewable Rewards updates for 2020
- The Rural portion of the program will be for residential customers and Agricultural Producers.
- Residential Rural customers will get up to a $500 bonus for installing a system. Bonus can’t be larger than prescriptive incentive. It will be equal to the incentive amount or $500, whichever is smaller.
- Agricultural Producers (Business customers) will qualify for an incentive match up to $10,000.
- Agricultural Producers are defined as “businesses engaged in the production of grain, livestock, milk, poultry, fruits, vegetables, bees and honey; fish; shellfish; or other common agricultural products including greenhouses.
- A Reservation system will be put in place for all projects.
- Residential customer projects will have three (3) months to complete.
- Business customer projects will have six (6) months to complete.
- There will not be a down payment requirement to reserve funding.
- Projects without a proposed completion date will be moved to the back of the queue.
- Reservation form will be posted on the website on January 3, 2020.
- All Reservations and Applications will be done online. If a customer or Trade Ally is unable to use an online version, the Program will provide them with a PDF version upon request, but it will not be available on the website.
- Azimuth rules: All projects within 90 degrees of due South (Compass Direction of 90 to 270 degrees) will be eligible for incentives and will receive the same incentive amount, regardless of azimuth.
- Projects completed in 2019 will get the 2019 incentive rate (will have 60 days from completion date to submit application).
- Projects completed in 2019 will receive the 2019 incentive rate (will have 60 days from completion date to submit application).
- Residential projects that began construction prior to November 1, 2019, and will complete before January 31, 2020 will be eligible for the 2019 incentive rate.
- Commercial projects that began construction, signed contracts, or signed purchase orders prior to November 1, 2019, but will not complete until 2020, will be eligible for the 2019 incentive rate only (12% of project cost, up to $4,000)
- Projects that sign contracts or purchase orders after November 1, 2019, and complete in 2020, will be eligible for the 2020 incentive rate.
- The total budget for Renewable Rewards is set at $4,000,000. The budget will be divided between the following customer groups and project sizes:
- Remaining funding will be posted on the website and updated every two weeks.
- For business customers: if funding in one tier is exhausted, the customer will have the option to reserve funding for the maximum amount in a smaller tier, provided funding is still available.