The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) recently issued a formal policy, stating that the UTC may regulate companies that lease solar power systems as an electric company.
What does this mean for Washingtonians?
More consumer protection.
Third party ownership (leasing) of solar power is not a viable option for people in Washington yet. The State currently encourages an ownership model for solar.
An “ownership model” for solar power means that the State wants its citizens to own the system, not a third party. Our legislators structured our solar incentives so that only property owners are able to collect them. One benefit of this model is that our State money stays in state with Washington citizens.
Technically you could lease a solar array today. The only problem is there are no solar leasing companies operating in Washington. They need access to the solar incentives to be able to make money. With leasing, our money would potentially flow to these corporations based out of State.
Leasing may come to Washington one day, or it might not. But if it does, the State has your back. Of course, as with everything politics and legal, there are grey areas. The UTC is asking the Legislature to better define just how much regulation is appropriate.
The commissioner said:
“If the Legislature chooses to expressly provide the commission jurisdiction over third-party owners, it should consider the level of regulation the commission should exert on the companies and the impact of the regulation on consumers and businesses. Specifically, we do not think it wise to employ full economic regulation or to exclude explicitly certain companies from this emerging market. Instead, we believe our primary focus should be on consumer protection and ensuring that the proper conditions are established for fair competition.”
It’s always nice to see a regulatory body say, “Hey, we want to protect people, but we don’t want to outright kill a growing industry in the process.”
We’ll let you know if the State Legislature decides to act this fall or wait until next year.