Today the Vote Solar Initiative (Vote Solar) and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC) released our official 2012 findings for Freeing the Grid, a policy report that grades all 50 states on two key programs: net metering and interconnection procedures. Together, these policies empower American energy consumers to use rooftop solar and other small-scale renewables to meet their own electricity needs. The report was released during Solar Power International, North America’s largest solar tradeshow.
Now in its sixth year of production, Freeing the Grid is a guide for improving state net metering and interconnection rules. The online report and resource center is designed to make it easy to access, understand and share best practices and state progress on these foundational renewable energy policies.
“Freeing the Grid is an invaluable tool for the solar industry, state decision makers and consumers. By measuring our progress on these policies year after year, it tells us where we’ve been and where we need to go,” says Jane Weissman, Executive Director of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.
“An interesting trend this year: we saw improvement in many states that are already leading our nation’s solar market. Once they got a taste of what solar power can do, they decided they wanted more. Freeing the Grid provides a roadmap for all 50 states to be able to do the same,” said Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar.
Freeing the Grid 2012 report highlights include:
We have also provided case studies providing a deeper dive into issues at the forefront of policy implementation across the U.S. This year’s In Focus articles provide real world examples of best practices in both net metering (valuing costs and benefits) and interconnection (streamlining connection at high penetration levels), as well as an example of worst practices in net metering (network use charges).
Freeing the Grid is produced by IREC and Vote Solar in partnership with the North Carolina Solar Center, which manages the DSIRE database. Its grading methodology was also adopted for use in the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, which aims to reduce the cost of going solar by 75% before the end of the decade.
Rosalind Jackson, Vote Solar – 415-817-5061. Rosalind@votesolar.org
Jane Pulaski, IREC – email@example.com]]>
— Nikola Tesla]]>
The current cap on net metering is 3% of peak electricity load, and with so many home and business owners jumping on the solar bandwagon in the last few years, the state has just about reached that cap. That means customers who want to go solar may not be able to get fair credit for the energy their systems send to the grid. Worse yet, the state’s current net metering rules contain confusing queuing provisions that leave it unclear how utilities should determine which projects will be eligible for the remaining benefits under the current cap, all of which means a complicated, expensive mess for the Massachusetts solar industry that is preventing clean energy projects from going forward.
Fortunately, state lawmakers are working to raise the net metering cap so that homes and businesses in the Bay State can continue to go solar. Senate Bill 2214 would double the amount of clean energy that qualifies for this important customer right, and clarify the queuing process so customers and solar companies can know up front which projects will qualify for net metering.
There are only a few short weeks left for legislators to pass this important bill before they go home for the summer. If you’re a voter in the Bay State, ask your representative to get SB 2214 across the finish line today!
Bonus info for you solar policy wonks: SB 2214 includes some interesting approaches to net metering: It enables all systems under 10kW to net meter, regardless of the statewide cap. It also exempts solar systems that can prove they never export electricity from counting toward the cap. In our view these are two smart provisions that make solar simpler for homeowners and make sure the only projects counting toward the net metering cap are those that are actually sending energy back to the grid.]]>
The registration process for a CPG requires the customer to self-certify that they will comply with certain interconnection requirements. For systems up to 10 kW, the interconnecting utility has 10 days to let the customer know if there are any interconnection concerns with the proposed system. If the utility does not file an objection to an interconnection project within this time period, a CPG will be deemed issued by the Board on the eleventh day following the filing of the registration form and the applicant may commence construction of the system. If the utility does file an objection, the applicant must wait to begin construction of the project until the interconnection issues have been resolved.
Solar policy victories don’t come easily – so today is truly a day to celebrate! Thanks to the hard work of organizations and solar companies across the state, not to mention the nearly 60,000 Californians who expressed their support for net metering, California will continue to be increasingly powered by the sun. Extra special thanks to Governor Brown and the Commissioners themselves for fighting so hard on behalf of this program.
Net metering makes sure solar customers get fair credit on their utility bills for the valuable clean power they put on the grid for others to use. It sounds like a no-brainer, but there is a cap on the amount of net metering that must be made available to customers. California’s law sets the cap at “5 percent of aggregate customer peak demand,” but does not specify how utilities should calculate that number. Consequently, utilities had been using a more restrictive methodology that would result in almost 50 percent less net metered solar and renewable energy than would otherwise be allowed. Today’s decision clarifies that utilities should use a cap calculation approach that results many more Californians having access to net metering benefits.
At today’s public hearing, we were especially glad to hear the Commissioners highlight the many benefits to the California economy and California energy grid of more rooftop solar. This important solar policy has already delivered tremendous benefits to California: supported 25,000 solar jobs, driven $10 billion in private investment in the state’s clean energy industry, given thousands of homeowners, schools, water districts, industrial users, and cities control over their electricity bills, and installed 2 natural gas plants worth of valuable peak solar power generation that our utilities won’t have to build and you won’t have to fund.
Commissioner Simon, himself a Bayview resident with friends and neighbors (and even a barber) with solar, also debunked the myth that solar energy is just for wealthy homeowners, saying “shame on you to whoever started those rumors.” Data from GRID Alternatives published on the Vote Solar blog this month backs Commissioner Simon assertions that solar is becoming more and more accessible to Californians of all income levels.
The Proposed Decision was amended the night before the vote to include a comprehensive cost benefit analysis of net metering – due to the utilities persistent claims that net metering is an unfair subsidy. We look forward to further study of the costs and benefits of this program, and believe the results will lead the Commissioners to the same conclusion as the Division of Ratepayer Advocates that the utilities ‘cost shift’ argument is a red herring and unsubstantiated.
In addition to the study requirement, there were some technical additions to the proposal that bear further review to make sure the state’s policy continues to achieve the goal that we all support – the long-term growth of solar as a mainstream energy resource in our state.
There is still work to be done – and we hope you’ll continue to help us along the way.
But today let’s celebrate a big step forward!]]>
Like rollover minutes on a cell phone, net metering gives solar energy customers fair credit on their monthly utility bills for electricity they put on the grid for others to use. California’s program has allowed over 100,000 homes, businesses, schools, and public agencies to go solar and lower their energy costs. This in turn supports thousands of jobs statewide and reduces the need for expensive, polluting fossil-based power plants.
California law caps the amount of net metering that utilities must make available to their customers. The outpouring of public net metering support comes as the CPUC considers taking action to allow more Californians to participate under that cap. The state’s major utilities are opposing the proposal, instead supporting a plan that would cut the amount of net metering participation by half. The Commission could make a final decision on the issue later this week – the issue is on the agenda for the May 24 public hearing.
Go CPUC go!
A number of major organizations joined us in calling for public action, including: 350.org, CREDO Action, Environment California, Sierra Club, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“People care deeply about this issue. They want California to continue to go solar, and they agree that Californians should get fair credit for doing so,” said Annie Carmichael, Policy Director at the grassroots organization Vote Solar.”We hope that state policymakers will listen to their constituents and ensure continued access to this energy bill-saving, job-creating backbone of California’s growing solar economy.”
“With electricity bills constantly rising, it’s no surprise that Californians are responding strongly to this call to preserve access to a cheaper, safer, cleaner energy option. It’s past time for utilities to ditch dirty, out-dated fossil fuels that burden their customers with asthma and other deadly health problems and embrace clean, cost-effective rooftop solar,” said Evan Gillespie, Campaign Director for Sierra Club’s My Generation Campaign.
“We hope that the more than 27,000 CREDO Action members who signed this petition send a strong message to the CPUC,” said Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager with CREDO Action. “Californians strongly support solar energy and policies to confront climate change. We don’t want our state’s leadership and solar industry growth to be undermined by unfair electric utility loopholes.”
“California’s solar industry employs more than 25,000 Californians and has driven $10 billion of private investment — and net metering is central to that success,” said Sara Birmingham, Director of Western Policy for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “For jobs and investment to continue, the looming net metering program cap can’t slam the brakes on California homes, schools and businesses going solar.”
“Net metering is clear and simple way for Californians to help solve the climate crisis,” said Jamie Henn, Communications Director for the climate campaign 350.org. “With the impacts of climate change already being seen across California — from melting glaciers in the Sierras to increased wildfires outside of Los Angeles — utilities should be facilitating the public’s desire for more clean energy, not thwarting it.”
“To remain the country’s clean energy leader and to give all Californians the right to invest in solar, policy makers must act now to expand California’s local solar market twelve-fold by 2020—as called for by Governor Brown,” saidMichelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate for Environment California. “Expanding the state’s successful net metering program is a critical step towards achieving this goal.”
A recent poll conducted for Vote Solar showed that an overwhelming majority (86 percent) of California voters support making net metering more widely available. In addition to the 60,000 Californians who contacted the CPUC directly, the net metering expansion proposal is supported by a broad range of stakeholders including: the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and former Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Fred Keeley who authored the original California net metering legislation.
A HUGE thank you to all who participated in the action! Your overwhelming support blew us away. Who knew when we set our original goal of 20,000 messages that you’d all go so much farther. Now let’s get it across the finish line at the CPUC later this week . . .]]>
Specifically, the inquiry seeks to establish whether a net metering facility’s generating capacity is determined by the amount of capacity associated with: (1) a single meter; (2) a single parcel of land; (3) a single interconnection point on an electric distribution system; or (4) some other criteria.
There is some concern that the statute may allow larger projects to split themselves up into smaller subdivisions in order to meet the net metering capacity cap, but as a result may consume the remaining net metering capacity quickly.
Participants’ comments are due June 4 and are available on the DPU’s website for docket 11-11.]]>
“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:
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.]]>
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, these five years have felt like a lifetime. Much has changed in that period, 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.]]>