In particular, The Alliance is pleased with the increase of the tariff rate for community solar subscribers to a full retail rate – and an additional benefit of retail rate plus two cents for low-income subscribers. A tariff rate is the amount paid to subscribers for the energy their portion of the community solar garden produces. An increase to a full retail rate means that community solar subscribers will receive a larger electric bill credit for the energy produced by their share of the community solar system. From stakeholders as diverse as the Sisters of the Holy Family and the Orleans Parish School Board, we have heard that this issue was key to sparking our inert community solar program.
We also appreciate the Council’s decision to maintain flexibility in the ownership of renewable energy credits, or RECs, with ownership defaulting to subscribers. Though most residential subscribers likely will opt to transfer ownership to developers, we continue to believe that this flexibility will be important for attracting certain commercial subscribers and enabling subscribers to receive the most value from their subscriptions.
The amended community solar rules will go to the full Council for a final vote and will most likely be heard at their Regular Meeting scheduled for Thursday, November 2, 2023.
While the Council has taken the laudable step of amending the community solar rules, there is more work to be done. We would be remiss if we didn't mention another docket that is currently pending before the Council – UD-22-04 pertaining to energy efficiency and demand-side management solutions. In fact, this docket came to the end of its procedural schedule in April of this year and The Alliance and other stakeholders are now waiting for the Council to take action to improve our city’s energy efficiency programming.
The need for this improvement is apparent. Entergy filed its most recent programmatic report on Energy Smart on October 6. That report showed that Energy Smart is underperforming and underspending in virtually every category, across customer classes. Not only this, but as we noted in our formal comments under docket UD-22-04, currently very little of the benefit of Energy Smart programming accrues to low-income Entergy customers, precisely the residents who could most benefit from its services. This is why the Alliance has proposed a 15% target for Energy Smart, such that 15% of overall program energy savings should accrue to low-income customers. Energy efficiency will further boost the effectiveness of Community Solar to reduce bills and emissions.
Community solar and energy efficiency are pieces of the same puzzle, and are crucial to establishing true resilience and energy security for ratepayers. We applaud the measures the Council took yesterday, and urge them to keep pushing forward toward a just energy future for New Orleans. We urge the Louisiana Public Service Commission to take similar steps to offer residents options to reduce their bills.