Smart Energy Voices- Episode 43

Smart Energy Voices- Episode 43

Capitalizing on Opportunities in Community Solar, with Miro Sutton

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In this episode of Smart Energy Voices, host John Failla sits down with Miro Sutton, Managing Director – Renewable Advisory, Strategy and Origination, NRG Energy. This discussion covers the state of community solar, including key trends, benefits, and common misperceptions. You’ll want to listen in to learn about NRG’s unique approach to developing community solar projects.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...

  • Miro Sutton’s background and current role at NRG [02:05]
  • The current state of community solar [05:21]
  • Benefits for community solar customers [11:20]
  • Misperceptions about community solar [13:59]
  • Community solar’s environmental benefits [17:55]
  • NRGs unique approach to community solar projects [20:29]
  • A recent example of a community solar deal [26:34] 
Why community solar?

The most apparent benefit of community solar is economical. Customers can get guaranteed savings without having to risk money. The only risk is the opportunity cost of a project that may or may not have worked out. That guarantee has been an attractive value proposition in the market and has opened many doors in the industry. Another benefit in some areas is the flexibility of assignment. For example, if a customer has a business that they want to close and open another, they can move their contract to the new business.

From a politician’s perspective, they can increase the solar on the grid through local projects without making a giant deal. They’re also able to democratize access to solar across multiple types of residential and commercial customers who would otherwise not have access. It checks the RPS box, equity box, and all the boxes that politicians love, making for a successful program from all perspectives.

Current trends in community solar

Today, savings are guaranteed no matter what the bill credit value is. The customer agreements have gotten a lot friendlier and are moving toward opening up to a lot more people. Financers also are starting to understand that community solar is not like onsite solar or VPPAs. There’s less risk to the individual customer. The customers’ flexibility also translates to flexibility for managing components for the developer. 

From the developer’s perspective, there are other trends as well. There’s more focus on LMI (low- or moderate-income) customers. This market brings in new considerations such as qualifying and maintaining the LMI status. The developers also have to deal with increasing grid considerations and interconnections. These factors have been seen in Massachusetts and now Maine. They’re something to consider but are, for the most part, being resolved favorably for the industry.

Streamlining community solar

NRGs process is focused on saving their customers time and money. The main focus is on saving the customers time. Part of this is due to programs being fragmented and nuanced. Rather than customers worrying about timing and which provider to choose, NRG takes care of all of those details. They are there to prepare their customer with everything needed to take the plan to their leadership and get it executed. One of the first things NRG does is present a customized contract template to the legal teams on the customer side. After that document is finalized, NRG takes it to the development community with a request for offers. This process saves a significant amount of time for the customer and creates an entirely homogenized experience. Using a model like this, it’s no wonder NRG has been successful in community solar projects across the nation.

Resources & People Mention

Connect with Miro Sutton

Miro Sutton leads the Renewable Advisory team at NRG, assisting Fortune 500 customers in their renewable procurement efforts by creating customized renewable and sustainable energy solutions. He has been part of 4+GW of renewable transactions in his career. Miro has 14 years of experience working in the renewable energy industry, including seven years with NRG. Miro has originated over 1.5GW of renewable energy projects for Fortune 100 C&I customers including Ecolab, US Bank, Lowes, and other similar entities. Additionally, Miro has supported C&I customers 400+MW of Community Solar subscription agreements across four states. Miro was involved in the founding of the Carbon War Room, the promotion of PACE financing solutions, the creation of the Cash for Clunkers bill (“CARS” H.R. 1550), and the development of international programs.

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