Building an equitable, resilient and flexible future for solar in Oregon

Solar has a bright future in Oregon! House Bill 3141, the public-purpose modernization bill passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2021, creates new commitments and opportunities for Energy Trust’s renewable energy programs. The bill requires at least 25% of renewable funds to serve low- and moderate-income customers and expands the scope of renewables investments to include advanced technologies, such as smart inverters and smart battery systems, that support reliability, resilience and the integration of renewable resources.

These legislative changes come on the heels of a massive year for solar. 2021 has already been our biggest year ever, and the proposed budget for 2022 will support even more solar, allocated for solar incentives—the largest total annual incentive budget that the program has ever had. This will accelerate a transition in the Solar program that has been underway since 2018, as we shift focus and resources toward solar projects that provide additional value beyond clean electricity. In response to this new legislation and feedback from stakeholders, the program plans to roll out several new incentive offers that will support the current demands of the industry and will focus efforts on three key pillars of equity, resilience and grid flexibility. All of this will need to be built on the foundationof a robust and diverse solar workforce.

With an increased focus on Equity, we will expand existing offerings that serve customers with lower incomes and invest more in new offerings, with a goal of providing one-third of solar incentives to customers with low or moderate incomes in 2022, expanding custom incentives for small community solar projects with specific equity goals, and building a network of partnerships with local and community-based organizations to address solar access and awareness barriers for communities of color and rural customers.

With an increased focus on Resilience, we will pursue federal funds to develop a planning and feasibility pathway for communities pursuing Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants to build resilient renewable energy microgrids, clarify a development path that positions communities to access state and federal emergency and resilience funds for renewable energy + storage projects, and develop a custom incentive offer for critical facility or community resilience hub projects.

With an increased focus on Grid Flexibility, we will launch new add-on incentives for smart inverters and smart battery storage systems, collaborate with utilities to explore integration of smart inverters and batteries into their systems to maximize customer benefit, and collaborate with Energy Trust’s New Homes and New Buildings programs on offers for grid-interactive homes and buildings that incorporate efficiency, solar, storage and smart controls.

None of this work will be possible without the strong foundation of a Robust and Diverse Solar Workforce. We surveyed trade ally contractors to better understand opportunities to improve the program, decrease solar soft costs and to increase investment in solar leads, business development funds, and training opportunities, and decrease solar soft costs. We will continue to roll out program improvements based on the responses we received. We will also work with pre-apprenticeship programs focused on increasing diversity in the building trades and organizations that specifically support people of color and women seeking to become contractors.

This transition to equitable, flexible, and resilient solar is the next step that the solar industry has been preparing for over the last several years, and it will not occur overnight. The solar program is responding to direct guidance from the state legislature, but we are fortunate that the guidance reinforces the path that the Oregon solar industry is already on and it propels us forward. In 2022 you will see the Solar program implement a new incentive structure that allows multiple values to be stacked together. By 2023 we aim to help the residential solar market graduate to a point where incentives are only needed for projects that bring these additional values of equity, resilience, and grid flexibility to the market.

Thank you for your dedication to solar and all the work you do every day. We’re looking forward to this future and we’re excited to take this next step with you!