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E Source and SEPA Form Utility Working Group on Solar Rate Design

February 18, 2016 By Cheryl Kaften

E Source, a Boulder, Colorado-based utility-focused consulting firm, and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) announced on February 10 that they are jointly creating a new working group, in order to share best practices in solar rate design.

Comprising utilities, the working group is expected to foster dialogue between the industry and its customers regarding the rooftop solar rate-design process.

“Both organizations have clearly heard from utilities that they need help with the many nuanced elements of engaging residential customers in a proactive and positive way on solar,” said E Source CEO Wayne Greenberg, describing the rationale for the project. “This working group will provide our utility members with the research, insights, and tactical resources they need to successfully tackle an important challenge: Managing the interplay between retail rates and rooftop solar as well as understanding how best to engage with customers to ensure mutually acceptable outcomes.”

“We have seen across the country how the conversations surrounding solar customers and utility rates have often been divisive and counterproductive,” stated SEPA CEO Julia Hamm. “This initiative is not aimed at promoting any one approach or policy solution to these issues. Rather, we are focused on bridging the communications gap between utilities and their residential customers, and increasing understanding on both sides.”

The working group, which is now open to both U.S. and Canadian utilities, will run from April through year-end 2016. Access to the group is included with membership in the E Source Solar Customer Project – which the company describes as a “solution-oriented research collaborative” – or can be purchased separately for a fee.

The first meeting of the joint working group will be held in conjunction with SEPA’s Utility Solar Conference on April 11 in Denver; the second will be in the fall; and virtual meetings will be scheduled in the intervening months.

“What SEPA brings to the table is our extensive experience as a trusted advisor helping utilities design solar programs; and, in particular, building collaborative frameworks for stakeholder engagement,” said Hamm. “Our research and work in the field have underlined the critical relationship between customer communication and rate design for integrating solar in utilities’ power mix, on both sides of the meter.”

“This initiative will build on E Source’s data and expertise on residential customers’ opinions and preferences specific to solar; as well as the types of messages that resonate with different customer segments,” stated Greenberg, adding, “Participants also will receive decision-making frameworks and tactical tools that will enable them to make wise decisions now and in the future as the solar market and utility approaches evolve.”

For more information on the working group, contact Alanya Schofield, E Source director of Strategy & New Products, at alanya_schofield@esource.com.

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