We don’t hear a lot of solar news from Oregon, but we have been hearing lately about successful feed-in tariff (FiT) programs.
Oregon has one of its own. Though not a top solar state, Oregon ranks at a not-so-shabby #12 in number of solar PV installations, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Open PV rankings.
The FiT is partly responsible for the rainy state’s solar success. The generous program was modeled after Germany’s, which is known for making one of the least sunny countries a world leader in solar.
The policy has been in place since 2010, and as of January last year it was already considered a resounding success, according to the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC). From July 2010 to July 2012, the program added 11.1 MW of new PV capacity in Oregon.
Significantly, OPUC also found that the program’s costs to Oregon utilities were minimal. Even including administrative costs, total costs came in at 0.24% – 1.37% of the utilities’ revenue.
Programs like Oregon’s FiT are particularly helpful in keeping the ownership of energy production local. That brings many benefits to communities, not least of which are stimulating the local economy and giving people control over their power generation. While Oregon’s FiT applies to both businesses and homes, this local ownership can be particularly meaningful to homeowners.
Under the Oregon FiT, homeowners can enter into a 15-year contract to get paid by their utility company for the solar power they generate, at a rate higher than what they pay for their own electricity.
“The math is compelling. Instead of paying the utility about 12 cents for every KW of electricity used, the program pays homeowners 39 cents for every KW hour of solar they generate,” said Chad Ruhoff, manager of the Home Performance Division of Neil Kelly, a residential remodeling firm that installs solar systems.
Now, time is running out on Oregon’s FiT, which is set to expire on April 1, 2014.
“For homeowners who have been thinking about moving to solar, there’s never been a better time,” Ruhoff added. “Everyone knows there’s a lot of rain in Oregon. But Oregon has more sun than market leader Germany. The Feed In Tariff is a great route for going solar. With Oregon’s FIT rate, you have the opportunity to be cash-flow positive in the first year, even with financing.”
To qualify for the Oregon FiT, homeowners must meet the following criteria:
- They must be a customer of Portland General Electric (PGE), Pacific Power or Idaho Power.
- They must not be applying for other Energy Trust of Oregon solar incentives, or State of Oregon solar tax credits or grants.
- Their solar system must be installed by a qualified Energy Trust solar trade ally contractor listed on Energy Trust’s website.