Freeing the Grid: States Remain Strong on Consumer Clean Energy Policies

Vote Solar and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) today released the 2014 edition of Freeing the Grid, a policy guide that grades all 50 states on two key clean energy programs: net metering and interconnection procedures. Together these policies empower energy customers to use rooftop solar and other small-scale renewables to meet their own electricity needs.

Now in its eighth year of publication, the report shows that over the past year, states nationwide have generally upheld and in some cases strengthened these pillars of consumer clean energy investment. Considering the overwhelming number of attempts by traditional power interests to weaken net metering over the past year, this is a major win for consumer choice and energy innovation. It’s heartening to see regulators nationwide – in red states and blue – stand strong for solar progress by upholding these important policies.

Freeing the Grid: Net metering & interconnection from Freeing the Grid on Vimeo.

With strong state renewable energy policy leading the way, entrepreneurs, businesses and customers are successfully transforming our nation’s energy landscape for the better. “Affordable clean energy is driving change and innovation in our nation’s electric sector, the likes of which have not been seen in more than a century. Freeing the Grid is intended to be the steady guide for state regulators and others who are working to navigate the changing utility landscape and unleash the benefits of local clean energy,” said Jane Weissman, President and CEO of IREC, our trusted partner on Freeing the Grid.

“These policies help put people, not polluters, in control of energy decision-making. They empower individuals to go solar and they help create new, good jobs. They also help cut carbon pollution and climate change, which disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income families. We hope to see even more states adopting strong net metering and interconnection policies that support the cleaner, healthier and more just energy economy that so many Americans want,” added Jeremy Hays, Executive Director of Green For All.

With that, 2014 report 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. There were no declines in state grades over the past year, a significant outcome considering the many attacks on net metering across the country from utilities aiming to stifle solar adoption. 

In total, more than two-thirds of U.S. states now qualify for good ‘A’ or ‘B’ grades in this important clean energy policy. Two states that already held high “A’ grades, Vermont and Massachusetts, raised their program caps to further expand consumer access to net metering’s bill-saving benefits. The news is timely as the Massachusetts’ first Solar Task Force meeting is also convening today to chart a long-term path forward on net metering in the state, an outcome of that same legislation that bumped up the otherwise looming program cap. We hope to see the Bay State shine yet again as an outcome of this process.

“Massachusetts is leading the way on solar, in part, because policies like net metering provide everyone access to the benefits of this renewable energy technology,” said DeWitt Jones, President of Boston Community Capital’s solar affiliate, which develops and owns solar projects in low income communities. “Equitable access to solar maximizes the potential to use the technology to help build healthier and more resilient communities and address the energy affordability challenges created by rising and volatile energy prices.”

Interconnection Procedure Grades:

These are the rules and processes 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. Ohio notably improved its procedures, improving its grade to an ‘A.’ Half of U.S. states receive good ‘A’ or ‘B’ grades, and the remaining are in need of improvement.

Head of the Class:

A record number of five states achieved excellence in both net metering and interconnection policies this year: California, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon and Utah.

California, far and away our nation’s solar leader, is another market where we hope policymakers keep its successful clean energy programs shining for the long-term. The Commission is currently deciding the future of the state’s net metering program – and the utilities pushing hard to weaken it. Along with many allies, we urge the Commission to continue to ensure that consumers continue to receive full, fair credit for their valuable solar investment.

This year’s report delves into a number of related pressing issues in the current regulatory landscape. We discuss the problematic rise in utility proposals to add discriminatory fixed charges to residential net metered customers. We explore the proud American tradition of energy self-determination, which is reflected in the decades-old federal law, PURPA. And we cover the rise of shared renewables models as a way to further expand solar access within the community.

We are in period of unprecedented change and innovation in the U.S. energy market and associated regulatory landscape. In the eight years of Freeing the Grid’s production, there has never been a time when these policies have been the subject of as much public attention and debate as today. This report is designed to be an objective resource that helps policymakers, regulators and stakeholders cut through the noise, implement strong regulation, and build upon the exciting clean energy progress that so many states have achieved to date.

“Sound net metering and interconnection procedures are some of the primary state policies driving growth in the American clean energy story today. I hope to see Freeing the Grid used to spark productive policy discussion and sound regulatory decision-making that keeps the United States moving forward on clean energy,” added Carl Linvill, principal at the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), a global, non-profit team of experts that focuses on the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of the power and natural gas sectors.

We hope you’ll explore, use and share this resource to advance our nation’s clean energy economy – state by state.

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