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New publications promote improvements in utility planning for community shared solar

This press release is posted on behalf of our Solar Market Pathways Community Solar Value Project.

December 8, 2016 – The Community Solar Value Project (CSVP) released three new publications today to help utility program designers understand opportunities and choices that can add value to community shared solar programs.

The Community Solar Program-Development Landscape: A Brief for Utility Program Designers, offers a broad overview of the field of community shared solar, a fast-growing solar market segment whereby customers can directly share in the benefits related to a particular solar project or portfolio. The brief reviews state policies affecting community solar, business standards and innovations, players who are active in the market today, and considerations for utility-specific program plans. It is accompanied by a second publication, a Resource Guide for Local Solar Procurement. The guide is an annotated bibliography, with links, especially regarding the development and review of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from solar resource and service providers. A third publication, Market Research and Market Segmentation for Community Solar Program Success: A Brief for Utility Program Designers, presents a strategy for customer-centered community solar program development and helps utility planners to take cues from market research, a useful practice from early-stage planning through program marketing and customer retention. 

All three publications preview the CSVP Community Solar Solutions Toolkit, which will be fully available in 2017. The Solutions Toolkit is one product of the CSVP effort completed under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Market Pathways, a part of the SunShot initiative to reduce solar costs across the country. A variety of publications, webinars and documentation of utility best-practices are already available on the project website:

In some states, community solar must conform to legislated guidelines, but nearly everywhere, utilities can affect program value for participants and the community at large. Moreover, utility leadership can shape programs that demonstrate integrated distributed energy resource (DER) value and build customer relationships suited to 21st century energy needs. It is CSVP’s aim to give utilities practical guidance in cross-departmental program planning and specific support in four areas: strategic solar siting and design; financing and procurement; target marketing; and integration with solar-plus companion measures, such as demand-response and storage.

“Community solar is a voluntary program welcomed by some market segments,” said CSVP Principal Investigator Jill Cliburn, “Therefore, it can be a market-based laboratory where utilities work with customers on technical and program solutions that eventually will have far-reaching applications.”

“The level of interest we’ve seen in community solar in the past year demanded that we couldn’t wait to release theses resources,” said CSVP Project Officer and CEO of Extensible Energy (lead firm) John Powers. “These publications are coming out first because questions on how to tap market research for community solar and on whether or how to work with third parties are often the first ones utility planners are asking.”

The CSVP puts a great deal of focus on flexibility in the way it designs its processes and resources. The ultimate goal is to bring more solar to more customers, more affordably in the next three to five years.


About the Community Solar Value 
The Community Solar Value Project is aimed at developing best practices for community-solar programs at electric utilities, by offering practical guidance on cross-departmental program planning, with a focus on solutions in four areas: strategic solar project siting and design, project financing and procurement, target marketing, and integration with solar-plus companion measures, such as demand-response and storage. 

The project is led by Extensible Energy, LLC, with support from Cliburn and Associates, Olivine, Inc., and Navigant Consulting. Utility participants include the Sacramento (California) Municipal Utility District (SMUD), and other utilities nationwide. The project is powered by SunShot, under the Solar Market Pathways program of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Jill Cliburn
Principal Investigator
Community Solar Value Project