MMUA Convenes Solar Study Group

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MMUA Convenes Solar Study Group

January 19, 2015

Is solar power a threat or an opportunity for municipal utilities? The fact is, it could be either. With that in mind, MMUA has convened a group of members in an effort to further develop the municipal approach to solar. The end goal? Turn solar into a win-win for municipal utilities and their customers.

   The initial meeting of the MMUA Solar-DG Task Force was Nov. 21 at the MMUA office.

   Dave Berg of Dave Berg Consulting led the group through a discussion of rates. Jim Losleben of tenKsolar talked about solar demonstration projects. Steve Thompson and Chris Kopel of Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (CMMPA) analyzed various solar strategies.

   The CMMPA analysis concluded that DG/Solar poses a potential financial threat to municipal utilities and that adopting a passive approach will result in acceptance of the negative consequences. Alternatively, taking a more pro-active or defensive approach to DG/Solar could potentially result in the strategic/financial benefits.

   In developing a strategic response to DG/Solar, a ‘high level’ cost of service analysis is needed to help develop a better quantitative understanding of the potential differences in the financial impacts of different strategies.

   After discussion and a review of strategies a task list was developed. The following tasks were identified by the Solar/DG Task Force as essential in developing the municipal approach to solar.

   • Education. The task force will develop educational materials regarding solar aimed at three distinct audiences: customers; municipal electric utilities; legislators and regulators.

   • Model ordinance. The task force will work on developing a model ordinance for distributed solar installations that includes the appropriate elements to protect the public interest.

   • Interconnection agreement. The task force will develop a model interconnection agreement.

   • Technical requirements. The task force will prepare a set of technical specifications and requirements for distributed solar installations to ensure that they will not present a danger to: The home or business owner; utility personnel, firefighters, contractors, and others who must work around the solar installation; and the public.

   • Demonstration projects. The task force will encourage and work to facilitate municipal utility solar demonstration projects, particularly with Minnesota-made solar collectors.

   • Costs. The task force will conduct financial research on costs.

   • Rate design. The task force will develop educational materials regarding rate design alternatives to use with small solar installations to ensure that the utility recovers its costs.

   Task force members include: Alex Bumgardner of Austin Utilities; Tony Ward of Grand Rapids Public Utilities, Bill Schwandt of Moorhead Public Service, Chris Kopel and Steve Thompson of CMMPA, Dave Meyer of Glencoe Light and Power, Dan Boyce of East Grand Forks Water & Light, Mark Fritsch and Jared Hendricks of Owatonna Public Utilities, Jeff Peters of Missouri River Energy Services, Joe Steffel of Buffalo Municipal Utilities, Larry Johnson and Mark Mitchell of Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency,  Mark Nibaur of Austin Utilities, Darryl Tvietbakk of the Northern Municipal Power Agency, Toby Saxon of the City of Chaska Electric Department, Troy Adams of Elk River Municipal Utilities, Wally Schlink of RPU, Jack Kegel, Bill Black, Bob Jagusch and Steve Downer of MMUA.


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