One of the biggest barriers to people going solar is the cost. Many residents, small businesses, and nonprofits can’t afford to pay up front for installing solar panels on their roofs.
In other states, there’s a solution. It’s called third-party financing, sometimes referred to as power purchase agreements or solar leasing.
Instead of paying for an entire solar system up front, you can pay a small fee to “rent” the panels that someone else owns and use the electricity the panels produce. Many of these deals are rent-to-own, with the customer making monthly payments to buy the solar system.
Third-party financing is an important tool for working families, small business, and nonprofits such as churches to make the transition to reliable clean energy. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that the top 10 states for customer-sited solar all allow third-party financing.
Unfortunately, in Wisconsin, We Energies is standing in the way. A company called Eagle Point Solar had an agreement to put solar panels on seven city buildings in Milwaukee under the third-party financing arrangement — but We Energies refuses to connect the solar arrays, claiming this arrangement would turn Eagle Point into an electric utility.
Now the case is coming before the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, which will take public testimony at a hearing Wednesday, February 17, at 2 p.m. The PSC is also taking written comments through Tuesday, February 23.
Please consider testifying at the Public Service Commission hearing. If you can’t make that, please consider submitting a written comment.
Here’s how you can get involved:
- Submit a written comment directly to the PSC by February 23
- Sign a Sierra Club petition in favor of third-party financing
- Sign up to testify at the PSC hearing tomorrow
- Listen live from the PSC website on Wednesday at 2 p.m. Click “Live Broadcast”
- Attend and speak by phone. Call (872) 240-3212, Access code: 903-694-349#
RENEW Wisconsin has a fact sheet on third-party solar financing here (pdf)
Environmental Law and Policy Center has talking points here:
- The PSC has an opportunity to clarify the law and promote public interest over monopoly profits.
- Third-party ownership gives citizens and organizations an option to install solar energy with no upfront payment and to take full advantage of federal tax credits for solar projects.
- Nonprofits, houses of worship and local governments cannot directly use federal tax credits, so this approach helps them to realize their solar and sustainability goals.
- A solar developer is not acting as a public utility when it utilizes third-party ownership to finance solar projects sited on a customer’s property.
- The utilities’ claim that it needs to know the identity of anyone who finances, funds, or invests in distributed generation projects to protect the “integrity” of the grid is disingenuous.
- The utilities’ refusal to interconnect over a financial consideration is an abuse of their power. to control access to the grid and should not be tolerated.
Rent-to-own arrangements exist in Wisconsin for all sorts of goods such as appliances and cars, without making the companies that offer these arrangements a manufacturer or distributor. Third-party financing for solar energy is specifically allowed by law in 28 other states.
It needs to be allowed in Wisconsin, too. As Wisconsin pursues a just, equitable, sustainable future, it is more important than ever to open every avenue to clean energy possible for all residents.
Thank you for considering action on this important issue for Wisconsin’s clean energy future.