The 2011 Edition of Freeing the Grid marks the 5th year of the report. With the astronomical growth of the renewable energy industry and a heavy focus on distributed generation resources, sales these five years have felt like a lifetime. Much has changed in that period, ampoule and much has been for the better. For instance, community solar and virtual net metering arrangements are now commonplace in many jurisdictions. This policy element didn’t exist when Freeing the Grid was first introduced.
As a sign of how far Freeing the Grid has come, this year the Department of Energy will grant awards to state and local governments through its innovative Sun Shot program and Freeing the Grid is playing an important role. The program’s mission is to bring the installed cost of residential solar down to one dollar per watt by 2018 Currently price is roughly five to seven dollars per watt, depending on system size and location. Integral to this mission are good net metering policies and interconnection procedures; so much so that the DOE is basing some of its award metrics on Freeing the Grid grading. It is an honor and a responsibility the authors of this report take very seriously.
More report content will be posted online to reduce reliance on a report that is published only once annually. There are numerous instances where policymakers changed their programs after the report was issued then inquire as to when their improved grade would be posted only to learn that the next annual edition would not be released for six or seven months. An online presence will allow us to stay current with the latest trends and developments in real time and will better position the material to fulfill its mission to promote best practices.
Staying on top of changing events is going to be increasingly important as the race for a clean renewable energy future continues. Clean, distributed generation technologies are a critical piece of this race. Financing incentives and structures are clearly the engines that are driving us forward. Market leaders in California and New Jersey embody this with their diverse and scalable financing programs. Of course, even a top-of-the-line engine with many resources invested in the vehicle will not perform well without a smooth road on which to travel.
This is what world-class net metering rules and interconnection programs do. They provide the smooth roads that transition us from dependence on centralized, dirty power generation to a system that embraces clean, distributed resources. Without effective policy, that road is going to be rocky and tumultuous.
This is why we are proud to continue this important work. We are now in the decade of retail grid parity for photovoltaics (PV), and as the price of renewables aligns with that of grid supply, good net metering and interconnection policies are going to be more important than ever.