Solar energy—increasingly cheaper, scalable, and overwhelmingly popular—has the potential to transform our world. Solar is the fastest growing energy source in the world, and we have barely scratched the surface of its potential.
With the recent passage of bold federal climate policy, the United States has entered a new phase of the journey towards 100% clean energy. This moment is a once-in-a-century opportunity to recast our legacy energy system to serve people instead of profits. But while an equitable clean energy system is now within our grasp, our success largely depends on whether and how states and utilities are able to access and utilize these transformative funding and tools to rapidly scale clean energy solutions. And Vote Solar is more than ready to meet that challenge head on.
How We’ll Work in 2024
2024: a State by State Approach
A 100% clean energy system is an achievable reality, but entrenched interests and the fossil fuel industry are not giving up easily. And while federal action offers crucial incentives for energy transformation, implementation, regulation, and actual change are still required through state- and utility-level intervention—venues where Vote Solar is an active, effective, and trusted presence. In 2024, Vote Solar will continue to advance clean energy policy in legislatures and public utility commissions in twenty-one states across the country, combatting the existential threat of climate change through the fast and equitable transition to clean energy.
- A healthier, more affordable and resilient energy supply
- Power in the hands of local communities
- Local wealth and job creation
Reduce dependence on polluting gas
Push for bold, equitable climate goals
Center equity in clean energy policies
Enable the 100% clean energy grid of the future
Accelerating the transition to equitable clean energy in more than 20 states
Vote Solar will push back on investments in gas, and move solar and other clean energy solutions forward through policy and regulatory strategies in twenty-one states—delivering immediate carbon-reduction benefits.
Why Vote Solar?
Vote Solar works at the state level, where most energy decisions are made. Our goal is to drive real, tangible progress in the equitable clean energy transition. We have a twenty year track record of advancing clean energy policy in state legislatures and public utility commissions across the country. By providing expert, data-driven advocacy and testimony to push solar as a key element of our clean energy future, Vote Solar is striving to ensure that consumers, the planet, and the public good are well-represented in policy debates.
West & Interior West
In the West, hotter temperatures and extreme weather events have driven up energy usage and costs, which in turn have created political salience around the issue of grid reliability. A key means to address these rising costs are local clean energy resources, which also promote resilience in the face of climate change. Since this region is also home to some of the largest Tribal nations in the country, there exists here the opportunity to partner more deeply with Indigenous communities on true clean energy solutions. In the coming year, Vote Solar will continue to build relationships with and center the voices of Tribal and other impacted communities as we tailor solar and clean energy solutions to the specific needs of each state.
Despite recent milestone wins in Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota, the Midwest is still heavily coal- and gas-dependent and has some catching up to do on clean energy deployment. With a state-based rather than regionally or nationally focused advocacy context, Vote Solar’s ability to share interstate knowledge and experience is particularly valuable to our partners and coalitions in this region.
Northeast & Mid-Atlantic
This region remains a leader in the equitable transition to clean energy in many ways: a number of states have decarbonization laws on the books, while others are in the process of securing them. At the same time, bringing clean energy online at scope and scale has been hampered by the region’s aging infrastructure, and in some states, the continued heavy reliance on fossil fuels. To work effectively, we must create clear pathways for states to transition off gas. In the coming year, Vote Solar will continue to play a critical role in bridging divides and expanding regional coalitions by building authentic relationships across unions, the clean energy industry, and the local communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel pollution and climate change.
In the Southeast, the challenges posed to the grid by extreme weather events present the opportunity to talk about resilience and reliability, and the economic and climate benefits of clean energy seem obvious. However, countering the myths instilled by fossil fuel interests remains a significant hurdle. In the coming year, Vote Solar will continue to work with our on-the-ground advocacy partners to provide resources to combat false fossil fuel narratives, and when appropriate, engage in the regulatory space to advocate for equitable, locally sourced clean energy solutions.
Despite strong public support for clean energy, politics at the Arizona Corporation Commission have made it challenging in securing durable victories in the state. In 2024, we will shift our focus to building power through multiple avenues and towards creating opportunities to expand community involvement in energy decisions. This will include a keen focus on broadening and strengthening coalitions, and continuing to work with environmental justice partners and Tribes to ensure that their voices are represented in regulatory arenas. We will push for the prevention of new, and retirement of old, gas peaker plants through Integrated Resource Planning processes with Arizona Public Service (APS) and Tucson Electric; work to ensure economic resiliency in fossil fuel impacted communities, especially on Indigenous lands; and build further on our successful relationship with the Arizona Office of Resiliency.
The Golden State remains the crucible for innovative clean energy solutions. In 2024, Vote Solar will continue to engage with a diverse coalition of partners, ensuring that community groups have a voice in shaping both state regulation and policy outcomes. We will work to accelerate the state’s climate goals by enabling more distributed energy resources to come onto the grid. We will also build a data-driven case that local clean energy resources can replace at least two existing gas plants; support the implementation of the equity-focused community solar program that we helped pass in 2022; continue our advocacy in the utility commission’s high distributed energy resources future docket; and continue to work with the Microgrid Equity Coalition to help implement the $200 million Microgrid Incentive Program.
In the Centennial State, Vote Solar has successfully collaborated with community based organizations and coalitions on Resource Plans and Transportation Electrification Plans. Building on our experience as a member of the Colorado Environmental Justice Coalition, we will continue to provide technical expertise in these plans as needed, to support our frontline partners in making critical decisions, and to enable their direct intervention in key regulatory proceedings. We will also continue our involvement with the Equity Rulemaking proceeding, a long term project to create more equitable regulatory processes in the state; push the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to prioritize environmental justice; and help the state access and implement clean energy projects using IRA funds.
Since 2021, Vote Solar has been an active intervenor in the Constitution State’s performance based ratemaking docket. In 2024, we will continue to lead the coalition in building the framework for establishing metrics of success, including creating utility business models that actually benefit ratepayers, not just shareholders. While Hawaii and New York have conducted similar work on a smaller scale, the work we are doing in Connecticut is truly groundbreaking, and once complete, we expect it will serve as a model in other states and regions.
Frequent extreme weather events make the case for resilience in the Sunshine State much easier, but the political climate is challenging. Additionally, the state has multiple large utilities with overlapping processes and dockets—making it difficult to be everywhere at once. In 2024, Vote Solar will continue to champion the advantages of distributed solar and storage along with the need for increased energy efficiency investments, with a particular focus on under-resourced communities. This will include finalizing the details of a resilient schools pilot program; protecting net metering against renewed utility hostilities and homeowners from attacks on insurance policies for homes with net metered solar energy systems; intervening in the Public Service Commission’s goal setting process; and pushing back on Duke Energy’s attempts to raise rates and expand fossil fuel capacity in the state.
There is renewed attention on bill affordability in the Peach State after the state’s largest investor owned utility, Georgia Power, announced an increase in rates by a whopping 40% in the next few years. In 2024, Vote Solar will continue to build public support to reform how the state structures utility profits. We will also work with partners and state agencies to implement federally-funded Solar for All programs. Additionally, we will participate in a process to amend the Georgia Power Integrated Resource Plan to fight their proposal for more gas on the grid, and to advocate instead to increase solar and storage capacity.
In the Gem State, Vote Solar is working to protect and expand the state’s fledgling rooftop solar market and set the stage for bigger changes in the future. In 2024, we will work with partners to expand capacity for interventions at the Idaho Public Utilities Commission that will improve rate designs for distributed solar. Our goal is to retain net metering or adopt an export rate that provides fair compensation for the value of solar and supports adoption of storage capacity.
More than two years after the passage of the groundbreaking Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), many of its decarbonization commitments have yet to be delivered. Vote Solar’s unique ability to navigate both legislative and regulatory spheres allows us to advocate for implementation of CEJA priorities through both the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition and legislative fixes. In 2024, we will engage in shaping policies that deliver on the law’s promise and educating decision makers on relevant issues. Vote Solar will also provide the leadership needed to determine solar’s role in the increasingly popular topics of transportation and building decarbonization. We will help to build the framework for a new regulatory regime for the state’s investor-owned utilities to ensure that local solar and distributed energy resources are fully valued; reform the Illinois Solar for All program to ensure full participation by 2025; and engage at the Illinois Commerce Commission to push for a complete and fair valuation of local clean energy resources, as full retail net metering is scheduled to expire in December 2024.
Neither the Commission nor the legislature in the Hoosier State are friendly to clean energy. And while utilities made big climate commitments when solar was inexpensive, they began to renege on their promises when prices went up due to supply chain issues. Alongside our partners, Vote Solar is working to bring utilities back to the table. We will also work to ensure that Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity or other critical permits needed for new gas-generating units are rejected at the Commission, and continue to provide support to partner organizations fighting for full and fair compensation for local clean energy resources.
The Commonwealth shows strong support for the transition to clean energy but transmission constraints have blocked meaningful progress, and siting solar has presented an enormous challenge due to the acute scarcity of space. To address these challenges, in 2024, Vote Solar will continue to advocate before the state’s newly created grid modernization working group. We will also work with leading clean energy, housing, environmental, and community groups to coordinate energy-justice focused policy solutions that will shift resources towards newly-designated Environmental Justice areas and to ensure justice and equity are considered in all aspects of the Massachusetts clean energy transition, including siting and transmissions. And we will work to revise the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Successor Program to encourage incentives for low-wealth solar adoption and siting on the built environment.
In November 2023, Michigan passed sweeping clean energy legislation putting the state on the path to 100% clean energy. While the package took steps to update the state’s renewable energy standard, energy waste reduction targets, and siting and zoning processes, it barely addressed energy affordability or reliability—and Michigan has some of the worst of both in the country. In 2024, we will stand with our partners to ensure that decision makers return to address energy justice. Additionally, we will continue to capitalize on our 2023 DTE Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) settlement victory, by intervening in multiple regulatory proceedings to advance equity issues. We will also prepare to fight fossil energy expansion plans that may emerge from Michigan’s utilities; coordinate with environmental justice advocates to support their testimony and champion their priorities in DTE and Consumers Energy rate cases; provide technical assistance and community engagement support to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy if they receive the $250 million they applied for through the Solar for All program; and we will push for utility accountability though customer outage compensation, utility contribution reform, and by working to reduce energy burdens through intervention in rate cases.
In 2023, the state of Minnesota committed to 100% carbon-free energy by 2040, and passed an equity-focused clean energy budget bill that provides a number of tools to make solar accessible and available to under-resourced communities. In 2024, we will continue to work closely with coalition partners to build on this strong momentum. We will also support the implementation of equity-focused supplemental policies to put more solar on schools, compensate intervenors for their work on regulatory proceedings, and expand and reform community solar to allow for community ownership and more low-wealth residential subscribers. On the regulatory front, we will push back on an expected proposal to build an additional 600-800 MW peaker plant, and monitor mandated utility equity measures in distribution and integrated resource planning.
In the Silver State, we will push the Commission to enable better integration of distributed solar and storage as well as equitable planning processes for the electrification of transportation systems. We will work to hold utilities accountable in the Nevada Energy Distribution Resource Plan process and engage in planned Integrated Resource Plan proceedings. We will continue building partnerships with environmental justice and frontline communities to make regulatory processes understandable and accessible, aiming to catalyze direct engagement at the Commission in proceedings that have firsthand community impacts.
In 2024, Vote Solar will continue to work with industry and environmental leaders, and community partners to advance the decarbonization of New Jersey’s economy, and ensure that the state’s new community solar program fulfills its promise. We will push for a statewide commitment to clean energy by intervening in the state’s 4-year Energy Master Plan to ensure it accelerates the state’s clean energy target to 100% by 2035, and that this transition happens equitably. We will also work with members of the Governor’s office, community leaders, and other stakeholders to help direct equitable implementation of new federal funding.
The Land of Enchantment has an economy reliant on fossil fuels, and a month-long legislative session focused only on budget related items. In 2024, Vote Solar will support partner organizations in accessing climate resiliency funding, ensure proper funding allocation to key state agencies as part of implementing the 2019 Energy Transition Act, and work to expand the state’s existing community solar program. We will also facilitate deeper understanding of the benefits of local clean energy resources among decision makers and Tribal governments; work to ensure state agencies, such as the New Mexico Economic Development Department and Indian Affairs Department, obtain proper fund allocation from the Energy Transition Act; provide recommendations to legislators for energy efficiency and solar projects to promote during the short legislative session; monitor the implementation of the state’s community solar program—the first in the country to include Tribal-specific provisions that recognize Tribal sovereignty; and build partnerships with Tribal entities to enable direct engagement in the regulatory process.
In May 2023, the Empire State enacted the Build Public Renewables Act–a policy which lifted a ban on new clean energy projects and required the state’s public utility, the New York Power Authority, to scale up their renewable energy production while phasing out fossil fuels. In 2024, we will ensure that this initiative moves forward, including pushing for the closure of gas peaker plants that have created terrible health impacts for the under-resourced and Black, Indigenous, People of Color communities situated nearby. We will also lead the campaign to hold utilities accountable for their failure to properly bill and credit community solar customers, and work with solar industry and energy democracy partners to increase the state’s ambition for distributed solar development beyond the existing 10 GW commitments.
Energy equity issues abound in the Tar Heel State. In rural areas, working with an aging housing stock that is neither energy efficient nor decarbonization-ready presents an intersectional challenge to expanding rooftop solar and making clean energy truly accessible for all. Vote Solar has been connecting energy advocates to housing advocates to build a multi-channel strategy that puts people first; the promise of funds from the Solar for All program in 2024 will help drive investment in this approach. Additionally, we will continue to hold Duke Energy accountable for the equitable clean energy promises made in its Carbon Plan, and work with partners to encourage the utility to improve existing community solar programming that has, so far, failed to bring much development to the state. We will also run educational workshops across the ‘Black Belt’ of eastern North Carolina to engage community members in energy policy and regulation and learn about their priorities; our goal is to support a stakeholder process that actively seeks community perspectives.
The Keystone State is an important and exciting frontier for clean energy development. While the political landscape and a heavy reliance on fossil fuels are severe challenges, Vote Solar’s polling shows that the public has a keen appetite for clean energy solutions. In 2024, Vote Solar will help move the needle toward the equitable and just clean energy transition by working with state offices to build the case for allotting adequate resources and proper administration of federal incentives established by the Inflation Reduction Act. We will also push the Philadelphia Electric Company to commit to a larger renewables mix. And, working in partnership, we will help to establish a community solar program and support a proposed reinvigoration of the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.
The confluence of significant impacts from climate change and a boom in clean energy manufacturers is creating fertile ground for change in the Palmetto State. While Duke Energy is still backing gas expansion and the state politics remain challenging, Vote Solar is focused on building power through strengthening community partnerships. In 2024, we will intervene in Duke’s Integrated Resource Plan to increase renewable energy development and minimize new gas generation. We will also establish a pilot program to use local solar and storage to increase resilience and replace the need for an expensive grid upgrade in an under-resourced part of the state; support establishing a program to enable virtual net metering—a critical step for the development of community solar programming; and continue to assist the Office of Resilience with the next steps of implementation when Solar for All funding is announced.
There are exciting near term opportunities to fortify the Beehive state’s nascent rooftop solar market. Vote Solar is working to provide policy support to a coalition of solar advocates with the goal of making improvements to residential solar rate design. This coming year, we will leverage opportunities to improve the modeling, and ultimately the expansion, of distributed energy resources as part of utility Integrated Resource Plans. Our focus will be to prevent and reduce new investments in gas and other polluting energy resources. We will also support efforts to restore stability to solar rates and drive rooftop solar adoption in the state.
While working in the Badger State is relatively new for Vote Solar, we have already secured some big wins for solar energy by supporting expanded energy choices for customers through third party ownership of solar. With a Supreme Court and Public Utilities Commission that have both voted in favor of clean energy, Vote Solar will continue to focus our fights in the regulatory sphere. This year, we will continue to advance our third-party ownership petition so this powerful tool can be used to expand access and adoption of rooftop solar, and support the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation in designing and implementing their Solar for All program.
Access and Equity at Vote Solar
Access and Equity is the bedrock upon which all our work stands. Our vision of a 100% clean energy future is driven by our approach: the solutions we develop must be shaped by the communities they impact the most. In 2024, we have three overarching goals, which will result in a host of tangible resources.
Over the next year, our activities will include:
Center energy justice and equity in all of our campaigns and programs
- Continue supporting the Solar for All applications enabled by the IRA. Vote Solar has lent its expertise to both state agencies and non-profit organizations in developing applications in multiple program states. We will work with specific allies to develop toolkits, webinars, and other research materials to equip partner organizations to build capacity.
- Complete the partnership mapping process initiated in 2023 to create a central resource with and map of Vote Solar’s partners, helping us to identify gaps and be more intentional in partnership building.
- Develop and pilot a Vote Solar learning community to share coalition best practices, and solidify that expertise internally. Eventually, we aim to share learnings and strategies with our allies.
Enable BIPOC, frontline, and under-resourced groups to access equitable solar policy
- Undertake a detailed survey of frontline partners to assess their educational needs and create and pilot educational content to meet those needs.
- Continue the work of the Access and Equity Advisory Committee to bring together various stakeholders including community groups to develop policy recommendations—including identifying the barriers that exist in implementing policies and what changes are needed so they truly serve people.
- Create issue briefs with a particular emphasis on intersectional justice issues like low-wealth discount rates and how utilities recover some costs from ratepayers and use these to ‘buy’ their influence, often to the detriment of the public.
Build power with aligned movements
- Expand and strengthen relationships with national partners to exchange best practices, research, and policy insights, with a focus on both those working on clean energy, and groups with intersectional missions—for instance, housing issues or water rights.
Regulatory Advocacy Hub
“The Hub” is Vote Solar’s virtual center designed to provide harmonized strategic and technical support to our regional teams. Launched in 2021, the Hub aims to tackle an often overlooked but crucial piece of the clean energy puzzle: how to shape a regulatory landscape that is both accessible and responsive to the needs of the people energy utilities are meant to serve. The Hub’s three charges are to
- Maintain a database that provides vital information-sharing capacity to track Vote Solar’s growing body of successful testimony, analysis and best practices, and make them easily accessible to our staff and partners;
- Create an educational platform to (a) demystify the regulatory process for individuals and groups that do not work in the regulatory space, (b) synthesize our thought-leadership, and (c) formulate compelling arguments through a centralized effort; and,
- Build grid modernization and decarbonization efforts that utilize robust planning, modeling, and analytical support for Vote Solar campaigns.
In 2024, The Hub will:
- Provide education and training in the form of research, analysis, and technical assistance with the goal of increasing impact and efficiency in regulatory interventions and policy stances.
- Expand the scope of Vote Solar’s testimony and policy database, opening it up for external access for our allies—potentially an invaluable resource as we help introduce more organizations to regulatory advocacy.
- Expand technical capacity by adding a staff position to create educational opportunities and materials as well as develop thought leadership on regulatory reform.