Never a slow moment in U.S. solar policy news these days. Just this morning we released Freeing the Grid 2011, our fifth annual report card on state net metering and interconnection policies. Together these two policies empower Americans to generate their own electricity from solar and other renewables. And the good news is states of all shapes, colors and political persuasions continue to embrace these fundamentals of a strong distributed renewable market. We’re also particularly pleased to note that the report methodology was used by the U.S. DOE in scoring Sunshot, their exciting initiative to lower the cost of going solar in the U.S. by 75% by 2020 – further recognition of the important role that these wonky-but-critical state policies play in making solar cost effective for energy consumers.
“It is clear that our nation’s states can and will continue their proud role as the growth drivers of America’s new energy economy. Renewable energy has strong support from state policymakers and the citizens they serve. That support is not restricted to any particular party affiliation or geographic location. It is bi-partisan, it is pervasive, and it is no surprise. If there’s one thing Americans in all our diversity can agree on, it’s that we can do better with our energy choices. Freeing the Grid outlines a better path forward,” said Vote Solar’s own Adam Browning.
Without any further ado, Freeing the Grid 2011 report highlights include:
- Net Metering Policies: Commonly known as the policy that lets a customer’s electric meter spin backwards, net metering is a simple billing arrangement that ensures solar customers receive fair credit for the electricity their systems generate during daytime hours. Net metering best practices have evolved to include virtual net metering, meter aggregation and other innovative community solar models that allow energy consumers to come together and take advantage of economies of scale when investing in clean energy. In 2011, 17 states received top “A” grades for their net metering policies, up from 15 in 2010 and only 5 in 2007.
- Interconnection Procedures: Interconnection procedures are the rules and processes that an energy customer must follow to be able to “plug” their renewable energy system into the electricity grid. In some cases, the interconnection process is so lengthy, arduous and/or expensive that it thwarts the development of clean energy altogether. In recent years, many states have been working to streamline interconnection. In 2011, 23 states received “A” or “B” grades for good interconnection practices, up from twenty in 2010, and a tremendous improvement over the single “B” grade awarded in 2007.
- Head of the Class: Massachusetts and Utah received top “A” grades in both policy categories for the second year in a row. In 2011 they are joined at the vanguard of best practices by Delaware, which made particularly impressive improvements to its interconnection practices from last year’s “F” grade.
- Shows Promise: A number of states received an “A” in one category and a “B” in the other making them strong distributed renewable energy markets that have continued room for improvement: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
- Most Improved: Indiana made impressive year-over-year improvements, from a “D” in net metering and “C” in interconnection in 2010 to solid “B”s in both categories this year.
The report is truly a group effort. Each year, we work closely with our friends and partners at NNEC, IREC and the North Carolina Solar Center each year to produce Freeing the Grid. It is also endorsed by Solar Alliance and the Solar Foundation.
“The age of grid parity is upon us—in some places in the country, you can generate your own electricity with solar and wind more cheaply than buying dirty power from your utility. It’s truly the democratization of energy, but it only works if you have access to the plug and if you get fair credit for generation. Poor interconnection and net metering policies can stand in the way of building a sustainable, growth industry. Ensuring that residents and business have fair access to the grid and get fair credit on their utility bills are two simple but highly effective ways to unleash renewable energy growth,” said Kyle Rabin, Director of NNEC.
“Renewable power has the ability to jointly address three of the most pressing issues facing our country today: the economy, energy and the environment. Given all that’s at stake, all 50 states should be making the grade. I encourage state policymakers and renewable advocates to explore Freeing the Grid and apply the lessons therein to improving these important energy policies in their own states,” said Joseph Wiedman, representing the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC).
“We produce Freeing the Grid each year to reflect current best practices in this dynamic policy arena and give state leaders a clear blueprint for renewable energy success. We are particularly proud to have had our 2011 guidelines used in the grant review process of the DOE’s new SunShot Program, an initiative to significantly reduce the cost of going solar in states and communities nationwide. With these policies, states have the tools they need to help make renewable energy cost-effective,” Laurel Varnado, Policy Analyst with the North Carolina Solar Center, the crew that manages the fantastic DSIRE database on current renewable policies.