Vote Solar and our friends at IREC just released Freeing the Grid, our annual report card to all 50 states on net metering and interconnection – two wonky sounding policies that are key to Americans going solar. They make sure energy customers get fair and consistent treatment from their utilities when they want to generate their own power.
These policies have long been the foundation of strong state solar markets, and that’s more true today than ever before. Solar is increasingly affordable and incentive programs are winding down in many states. The solar train has left the station – we just need to be sure it has plenty of smooth track to keep it moving along. It’s critical that we keep the way clear for more Americans to generate their own solar power. Strong net metering and interconnection procedures at the state level do just that.
2013 Freeing the Grid highlights include:
Net Metering Grades: This policy ensures that renewable energy customers receive full credit on their utility bills for valuable clean power they put back on the grid. The District of Columbia and Minnesota both improved their net metering grades over 2012, and not a single state grade declined, a significant outcome considering that net metering policies were under review in many states. In total, more than two-thirds of U.S. states now qualify for good ‘A’ or ‘B’ grades in this important clean energy policy.
Interconnection Procedure Grades: These are the rules that an energy customer must follow to be able to ‘plug’ their renewable energy system into the electricity grid. This process should be straightforward, transparent and fair. Our Freeing the Grid interconnection grading methodology was updated for 2013 to reflect current best practices. Under this new methodology, half of U.S. states receive good ‘A’ or ‘B’ grades, and the remaining are in need of significant improvement.
Head of the Class: Four states achieved excellence in both net metering and interconnection policies this year: California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Utah. These states lead the nation in allowing customer participation in the renewable energy market. Big congrats to them!
Most Improved: Washington made significant improvements to its statewide interconnection procedures and jumped from a D to a B in this category. The changes remove unnecessary requirements and procedures for interconnecting smaller renewable energy systems, clearing the way for the more expedient review of larger systems.
Issue Highlight: Valuing Net-Metered Generation: With rooftop solar and other distributed generation growing at a record pace, states nationwide are increasingly focused on assessing the benefits and costs of this dynamic resource. The importance of these valuation studies cannot be overstated as they are being used in many states to inform the future of net metering and, by extension, rooftop solar. Regulators, utilities and other stakeholders should adopt a standardized set of ‘best practice’ methodologies to help ensure the accountability and verifiability of these benefit and cost estimates. Lucky for them, IREC just developed and released a guidebook on that very topic.
We are in the midst of a transition to the era of mainstream renewables that gives Americans control over their power supply and energy bills like never before. It’s an exciting time; however, policy design on the frontiers of our fast-changing clean energy marketplace can be a challenge to get right. Now in its 7th year, Freeing the Grid is designed to help policymakers and other stakeholders make better sense of best practices and what needs to be done in their own state to clear the way for a 21st century approach to energy. We’re proud that Freeing the Grid’s 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. We hope you’ll put it to use!