Maryland and Minnesota Pass State Legislation to Expand Access to Community Solar

Source: Werner Slocum, NREL 65601

On May 16, 2023, Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed House Bill 908, making the state's seven-year community solar pilot program permanent and improving access for underserved communities. The new program incorporates key changes based on lessons learned from the pilot and best practices from other states by eliminating the pilot program's capacity limit, authorizing the use of utility consolidated billing, and lowering restrictions on project site eligibility to allow for agrivoltaics and projects built on commercial rooftops, industrial sites, and brownfields. To expand access for low- and moderate-income (LMI) residents, the new program requires projects to allocate at least 40% of their electricity output to LMI subscribers and allows residents of master-metered buildings to participate in the program. The passage of House Bill 908 will support continued growth of Maryland's community solar market and will help the state achieve its ambitious climate, equity, and economic development goals.

The Minnesota legislation, signed by Governor Tim Walz on May 24, 2023, updates the state's longstanding community solar program to benefit more residential subscribers and expand access for low- to moderate-income households. As part of a larger package of energy policy reforms, HF 2310 makes a number of changes to the state's existing community solar framework, which has been in place since 2013 and has led to the installation of over 800 MW of solar. The new framework increases the maximum size of individual community solar gardens from 1 MW to 5 MW and removes a geographic restriction that had prevented residents from subscribing to solar gardens outside of their county or an adjacent county. The program also reserves at least 30% of each new community solar garden's capacity for low- to moderate-income residents and requires at least 55% of subscribers to be a combination of lower-income residents, affordable housing providers, and public interest groups. Finally, the legislation transfers program administration from Xcel Energy to the Minnesota Department of Commerce (which houses the State Energy Office), which will position the state to take advantage of the federal funding opportunities available through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund established by the Inflation Reduction Act. Together, these changes are expected to help Minnesota continue to be a leading state in the community solar market and reach its new goal of transitioning to 100% clean energy by 2040.