The Mid-Atlantic is Ready to Shine
Vote Solar will expand advocacy in three key states
Vote Solar is doubling down in the Mid-Atlantic – that cluster of states that is defined more by what it’s not (the Northeast, Southeast, or Midwest) than what it is – a politically, socially, and economically diverse swath of rural heartland and coastal urbanites orbiting our nation’s capital. It’s one of the most representative regions of American culture, and it’s ready to ramp up its clean energy economy.
I recently joined Vote Solar to push for solar policies that blaze the path to a clean energy future, strengthen local economies, and expand solar access among low to moderate-income households.
The good news is that significant new developments are already taking place in the region. New Jersey and Maryland, which have long ranked among the top third of all states based on total solar installations, continue to forge ahead with promising momentum, while nascent solar markets like Pennsylvania explore inroads into the clean energy economy.
Here’s where we’ll focus our Mid-Atlantic campaigns . . .
New Jersey: With the recent victory of Governor-elect Phil Murphy, we expect a positive swing in New Jersey’s political leadership for the first time in a number of years. We hope to work with the new leadership on two top priorities: course correcting the Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) market and expanding access through community solar.
New Jersey’s solar market risks collapse in the coming years due to recent solar growth and inadequate SREC demand. This would follow a market collapsed back in 2012, when investments and jobs dried up as companies fled the state to other richer markets.
Fixing the SREC program would require accelerating compliance for the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by moving it up from 2028 to 2021 to ensure that electric power suppliers have more aggressive targets for purchasing solar energy through SRECs. This will build the demand for more solar, thereby stabilizing the SREC prices. Shoring up the SREC market will also align state policy with the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC).
Vote Solar will also engage in New Jersey’s regulatory arena and advocate for strong policies that stabilize solar markets and increase access. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) 2017 Solar Proceeding will allow stakeholders to review and engage in the state of the solar market and policies. We will engage in this initial assessment and then participate in the rulemaking process to expand solar deployment.
While continuing solar growth is important, we must also work to increase access for all customers. Vote Solar will advocate for community solar legislation in New Jersey to do just that. With strong net metering policies for on-site solar, New Jersey has the opportunity to go a step further and establish a statewide community solar program. Community solar increases energy options for the majority of electric customers that lack access to rooftop solar – including those who rent, have shaded or unsuitable roofs, or live and work in apartment or office buildings. Community solar can also ease the energy cost burden among low-to-moderate income households who are less likely to invest in a rooftop system. And of course, community solar will allow New Jersey to spur new economic activity across the state, resulting in job creation and new investment.
Pennsylvania: The Keystone State is currently spearheading a two-year statewide planning project, Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future, led by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Energy Assistance (OPPEA). The project goal is to explore pathways for Pennsylvania to procure 10% of its electricity from in-state solar by 2030 under the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS). Vote Solar will offer regulatory expertise and lessons learned from across the country.
Like New Jersey, Pennsylvanians also lack a community solar program that allows more families and businesses to participate in and benefit from the solar economy. We intend to change that by working with a diverse coalition at the state legislature to educate policymakers on the benefits that community solar can deliver to constituents. We’ll help lawmakers understand how community solar reduces the energy cost burden in their communities, provides families and businesses with energy choices, and helps spur jobs and economic activity where it’s most needed. Particularly in Pennsylvania, community solar represents an opportunity to stimulate growth in rural communities where solar projects are easiest to site.
Maryland: Vote Solar will collaborate with partners, including MDV SEIA and CCAN, to push for an even more robust RPS in Maryland: 50% by 2030. We’ve seen across the country that an increased solar target opens up job opportunities and accelerates the transition to a carbon free economy.
Vote Solar will also pay close attention to the Maryland Public Services Commission (MD PSC) proceeding on electric grid modernization. Stakeholders will review Maryland’s electric distributions systems and explore issues that will maximize benefits and choices for the state’s electric customers. The proceeding will also assess how the evolving electric grid impacts low- and moderate-income ratepayers. Several topics are being considered, including rate design, electric vehicles, competitive markets and customers’ choice, interconnection processes, energy storage and distributed system planning.
We have a lot on our radar in the Mid-Atlantic, and I could not be more excited to dive in. I have already spoken to dozens of partners and leaders in the area, and I am looking forward to working with strong allies to continue making solar a mainstream energy resource across the region.
Are you in the Mid-Atlantic? Let me know – I would love to get to know you and pick your brain on the lay of the land. Email me at and follow me on Twitter @PariKasotia.