Thursday, December 01, 2022

Third Party Solar

Today, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) voted to allow "third party solar" in our state. This is a super important decision that will make a big difference in who can install solar panels which will move our state off expensive, dirty, Earth-killing fossil fuels.

UPDATE: The PSC's ruling applied ONLY to the specific case before it, as described in this article from The Wisconsin Examiner

While limited to that instance, solar advocates saw the ruling as opening the doors to more widespread adoption of solar power.

“It’s no coincidence that the states with the most solar energy also explicitly allow third-party ownership, making it easier and more affordable for more residents and businesses to use solar energy,” said Chelsea Chandler, climate, energy and air program manager for Clean Wisconsin, in a statement. “This confirmation by the PSC that solar financing is allowed in our state will help Wisconsin meet its ambitious climate goals while helping Wisconsin families, schools, houses of worship, and municipalities benefit from affordable clean energy, even if they can’t afford to pay upfront.”

Wider adoption of third-party financing in our state may well depend on the 2023 Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

This article from Clean Wisconsin explains why allowing a third party to (help) finance solar installations is such a major step in the right direction. "Third-party financing allows people to lease or finance solar panels over time, usually from a company that installs and maintains them. It’s a popular choice for families, schools, houses of worship, local governments and non-profits across the country. In Wisconsin, third-party financing is not explicitly addressed in state law.Power utilities are using a lack of clarity in state law to block Wisconsinites from turning to private financing for solar panels. Our state needs clear statutes that support solar energy for all."

The Solar Energy Industries Association notes that, "Third-party financing allows more Americans to “go solar” by lowering the cost of solar installation and maintenance of a system. Companies continue to develop new products and services to meet growing demand for solar.

Third-party financing is included as a strategy for "Unlocking Solar for Low- and Moderate-Income Residents: A Matrix of Financing Options by Resident, Provider, and Housing Type" published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This could be a game-changer for tenants who want to participate in the clean power revolution but have not had a good avenue toward that goal. "Third-party financing is helpful because it reduces the up-front cost for the system and the effort required by the housing provider to install and maintain a PV system. Third-party leasing through power purchase agreements and ESAs are widely used in the multifamily housing sector and require little state support because private partners are willing to work with landlords."

We will soon learn more about how this, along with the incredible solar incentives in the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act, can help all of us take personal and meaningful climate action.

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