Solar developers continue to face uncertainty over whether they can use a financing tool that could expand access to solar energy despite regulators signaling limited approval of the practice last month.

In May, renewable energy advocates Vote Solar and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association filed petitions with the Public Service Commission, asking utility regulators to declare third-party financing is legal.

Third-party financing allows solar developers to pay the upfront cost of solar installations and lease the systems to customers, who pay them off over time. Supporters of the financing arrangement say it’s similar to leasing a vehicle. While the solar leasing arrangements are common in some states, their legal status is unclear in Wisconsin. Here, guidance from the commission has indicated third-party financing of small-scale renewable projects would meet the definition of a public utility, requiring developers to get approval to sell power.

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