- Associated Press - Sunday, May 1, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Ameren Missouri is considering two voluntary programs that would ask customers to pay more or provide property to support more solar power.

One program would ask residential customers to pay a bit more each month to finance a new solar plant. The second would look for commercial customers who would allow Ameren to install solar panels on rooftops and open spaces, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (https://j.mp/24cGbJl ).

Ameren isn’t planning any incentives for participants but it is pledging to spend up to $13.5 million on the programs, which would need to be approved by state regulators.

“We’ve had several large commercial customers that have approached us and have said, ‘Hey, we are definitely interested in helping to support sustainability throughout the region,’” said Bill Barbieri, Ameren Missouri’s director of renewable strategy, policy and generation.

The three-year pilot programs are expected to generate only up to 6 megawatts of solar power, but they will help they are designed to help Ameren learn how best to integrate small-scale solar into the larger power grid, with expanded solar development possible in the future.

Ameren has built a 5.7-megawatt solar array in O’Fallon and customers have used a $100 million rebate program to finance their own solar installations. But the utility has not installed its own smaller-scale solar plants on ratepayer property, which more utilities are considering.

Commercial customers would not receive payments for the 25-year leases for any property used for the panels and Ameren would own the electricity and renewable energy credits generated by the plants. The utility would pay for the cost of installation up to $2.46 per watt and customers would pay the rest if the panels cost more. If interest in the pilot is strong enough, the program could always be expanded to give customers a financial incentive by paying to rent space, Barbieri said.

Ameren estimates that the $10 million it budgeted for the effort would be enough to develop about 5 megawatts of solar power on customer property. Qualifying installations would need to be at least 100 kilowatts, about 10 to 20 times the capacity of a typical residential array.

The second program, dubbed “Solar Subscriber,” would let residential customers purchase a 100-kilowatt block of solar power, or about 9 percent of the average household’s monthly usage. Depending on how many people participate, Ameren would use the revenue to develop a solar array of between 500 kilowatts and 1 megawatt.

The cost for a solar block would run $15.28 per 100 kilowatt hours, and customers would have to subscribe to one per month for a year. Conventional electricity, mostly generated from coal, costs about $9 for 100 kilowatt-hours. Barbieri said Ameren estimates it would need to sell at least 746 solar blocks a month to justify the project.

“That’s part of what we’re trying to determine, too, what the real level of interest would be,” Barbieri said.


Information from: St. Louis Watchman-Advocate.

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