Frequently Asked Questions
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The Oregon Community Solar Program gives customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power and Idaho Power the option to receive utility bill credits in exchange for buying or leasing part of a community solar project. Community solar projects are large solar systems, and can be located on buildings, like businesses, government buildings, schools or churches, or they can be free standing on the ground in an undeveloped area. Project managers develop and build community solar projects, and utility customers can subscribe to part of a project to receive credits on their electric bills.
Installing a rooftop solar system is a great option for some home and business owners, but it’s not an option for everyone. Community solar is a great option for renters, people who live in multifamily buildings and other customers who want to use clean energy but may not have a sunny roof of their own or the means to invest in a rooftop system. Customers can subscribe to a portion of a community solar project and receive a credit on their monthly utility bill for the electricity generated from their portion.
First, a project manager develops a community solar project. Then, a customer subscribes to the project by signing up with a project manager. Customers can find projects on the Oregon Community Solar Program website at oregoncsp.org. When the community solar project begins generating clean energy, the participant will start receiving a credit on their utility bill for their portion of the electricity generated.
Not necessarily. You can subscribe to any community solar project located within the territory of your current electric utility. Some utilities serve many communities around the state; in that case, you do not need to live in or near the same community as a community solar project to subscribe.
Most Oregon customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power and Idaho Power are eligible to participate in the Oregon Community Solar Program. You can participate if you are a resident, a business, nonprofit or government entity. It doesn’t matter whether you own or rent your home or building. It doesn’t matter what kind of home you live in. As long as you have a utility account with PGE, Pacific Power or Idaho Power, you can subscribe to a community solar project.
Customers who participate in green power programs like the PGE Green Source, Clean Wind, or Green Future programs, the Pacific Power Blue Sky program, and the Idaho Power Green Power Program are eligible for community solar without restriction. Participants in these programs should be aware that their enrollment in the Oregon Community Solar Program will not change the quantity of renewable energy certificates purchased from their utility green power program, and if they take no action they could be purchasing renewable energy products through two programs to offset the same consumption. If a customer does not want to participate in both programs, they may unenroll or change their participation in their utility green power program when they sign up for community solar.
Net Metering and Green Tariff customers are eligible for community solar, with restrictions. Customers that have a net metered renewable energy system are eligible to participate in community solar, but the combined production of their net-metered system and their community solar subscription may not exceed their annual consumption. That means that a customer that only partially offsets their energy consumption with on-site net metering could use community solar to offset their remaining energy consumption.
However, if a customer’s on-site net metering system serves all or nearly all of their energy needs, they cannot participate in community solar. Similarly, customers that purchase bundled energy and renewable energy certificates through a utility program can only use community solar to meet their remaining net consumption – currently, this only applies to the PGE Schedule 55 Green Tariff program, which is only available to large non-residential customers.
Depending on the renewable energy programs that a customer is enrolled in, they may be restricted in their ability to participate in the Oregon Community Solar Program. Customers that installed a renewable energy system that receives a volumetric incentive rate (VIR) are ineligible. Most customers with on-site solar do not receive a VIR and are compensated under normal net metering rules, and this restriction does not apply to them. Certain kinds of non-residential customers are also not eligible for the program as a class, including direct access customers, lighting or traffic signal accounts, and cost of service opt-out customers.
To subscribe to a community solar project, a customer must sign up with the project manager building or operating the project. Subscribers will sign a contract with the project manager for a portion of the solar system. Subscribers receive credits on their monthly electricity bills for the energy generated by their portion of a community solar project in the prior month. Customers can review available projects on the Project Finder.
Questions you may want to ask include:
- What are my options at the end of the agreement?
- Are there any additional fees?
- How much money do you estimate I can save over the whole term?
- Will I be able to monitor how much electricity my panels generate?
- Do you guarantee the amount of electricity generated by my panels? If so, what happens if that amount is not reached?
- Who is responsible for the maintenance and care of the community solar project? What if there are issues, how are they resolved?
- Who handles my subscription over time? Who do I call if I have questions?
To figure out your average yearly electricity use, you can look at your bills and add up the last 12 months of kilowatt hours (kwh). Alternatively, you can call and ask your utility.
If you have fewer than six months of utility months at your current home or business location, the Community Solar Program will estimate the average electricity use of your home or business based on data about similar properties. You can ask your project manager or contact program support at [email protected] for an estimate.
Your subscription can’t exceed 100% of your average yearly electricity use, and you can’t subscribe to more the 40% of a single project’s capacity. But, other than that, it’s up to you to choose a subscription that fits your needs and your budget.
Every home and business is unique, so before choosing your subscription level, review your previous year’s utility bills so you know your actual usage. Also keep in mind that, your energy use may go down during the life of your subscription. It may be smart to include a buffer to account for changes like this and aim for no more than 90% of your typical use
The minimum community solar project subscription period is 10 years, and the maximum is 20 years. However, you can transfer your subscription if you are still within the same utility area and if it is approved by the program administrator. There may be a fee involved with the transfer, which should be listed in your contract. Low-income customers may not transfer their subscription unless it is to a member of the same household who is taking over responsibility for the utilities. In this case, there is no transfer fee.
Low-income households will have access to the same benefits as a standard subscription, but with reduced subscription fees of at least 20%, no up-front costs, and no termination fees to make it easier to take part in the program.
You must be a customer of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, or Idaho Power, and you must meet the income guidelines provided on the Subscriber Resources page.
If you qualify, reach out to the low-income facilitator at [email protected]. The facilitator will work with you to go through their screening process, and after they’ve confirmed your eligibility, you will be added to the project waitlist.
A Community Solar subscription should have no impact on emergency energy assistance (such as LIHEAP), but may or may not impact utility allowances when tied to subsidized affordable housing.
The standard contract outlines all of the rules and polices that you and your Project Manager are required to follow.
You are signing the contract with your Project Manager.
If your utilities are shut off, you must notify either Community Energy Project or your Project Manager. They will work with you to figure out how to adjust your subscription, what next steps you can take to continue participating in the program, or how to cancel your subscription.
Costs vary by project and type of subscription. Many projects will offer the option to pay for your subscription over time on your utility bill. Your monthly payment will depend on the size of your subscription and whether you’re on a fixed or variable subscription plan.
- With variable subscription plans, you sign up for a portion of a solar project and pay monthly for the actual energy produced by your portion. These are sometimes referred to as “pay-as-you-go” plans.
- With fixed subscription plans, you sign up for a portion of a solar project and pay a fixed monthly amount based on the size of your subscription.
Some projects may also offer the option to pay for your subscription upfront or through a combination of upfront and ongoing payments. Please review your subscription options and reach out to the project manager or Customer Support if you have any questions.
Costs will also vary for subscriptions designed specifically for income-qualified participants.
- Subscribers can pay for their subscription over time on their utility bills, or they pay up front to lower their monthly ongoing price.
- Some subscriptions costs will remain the same over time and others may change over time.
- Some subscriptions will include a subscription fee that will increase each year.
- If you have a variable plan, also called a pay-as-you-go plan, you pay based on how many kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar energy are produced and the price you pay per kWh will increase over time.
- If you pay a fixed amount per year, that amount may increase year over year.
- When deciding on a subscription, make sure you understand not just the initial monthly fee, but also the annual price escalator and how it will be calculated
Specifics on your subscription should be discussed with your project manager.
All participants within the program are allowed to cancel or transfer your subscription. There is a three-day window for participants to cancel their contracts after signing. You will need to contact your Project Manager to inform them of the change. Refer to your contract to see if there are any fees associated.
As long as you stay with the same power company, you can take your subscription with you. If you move to a new utility territory that is Pacific Power, Portland General Electric, or Idaho Power, reach out to Program Support for assistance.
Bill Credit Reconciliation occurs in April each year. This is when a Participant’s allocated kilowatt-hour production and electricity usage of the site is compared. If there was an excess kWh credited, it will be donated at the as-available-avoided-cost rate for use in the low-income programs. The intent is to prevent Participants from over-sizing their subscription. The adjustment will appear on the Participant's next utility bill.
- For non-low-income Participants, the oversubscription balance will be owed in full at the end of the billing cycle and added to the Participants next month’s utility bill
- For low-income participants, if the balance owed exceeds the difference between the bill credit and subscription fee of the next month's bill, the balance will carry over each month until the payment is recouped. Fees will never exceed the value of the bill credit for low-income participants
Subscribers and owners will receive the Renewable Energy Certificates for their portion of a community solar project. Renewable Energy Certificates represent the environmental, economic and social benefits of a renewable energy project. Project Managers are required to retire RECs on behalf of customers, preventing them from being sold.
Project managers develop, operate and enroll subscribers in community solar projects. Project managers can be solar developers, municipalities, public agencies, homeowners’ associations, community organizations, businesses, tribes or utilities. They are registered with the Oregon Community Solar Program and are accountable for compliance with all program requirements and code of conduct, and all community solar projects must be approved by the program.
Here are the steps to enroll:
1) Review the responsibilities of a Project Manager and the requirements of the program that are outlined in the Program Implementation Manual.
2) Watch the training videos and submit an application on the program website.
3) Once the Project Manager application is approved, you can submit a project within the platform for review by the Program Administration team.
With community solar, you are supporting the development of local, clean energy and benefits that come with it. In addition to bill credits, subscribers in the Oregon Community Solar Program receive the Renewable Energy Certificates associated with the electricity generated from their portion of the solar project. Renewable Energy Certificates represent the environmental benefits or renewable energy generation, such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions and air and water pollution. Because Renewable Energy Certificates are retired on behalf of the Participants for the project, you are contributing to solar power generated in Oregon.
The carve-out section of the program is reserved for projects that are either sized at 360 kW-AC or less or that have a public or non-profit entity as a Project Manager.
The initial capacity for the program 160 MW, with 80 MW being released in January and the remaining 80 MW being released on a date decided by the OPUC. Any capacity beyond 160 MW must be approved by the OPUC.
An overview of the capacity still available within the Oregon Community Solar Program can be found on the Program Status page.