About this report card:
Over the past 20 years, best practices have emerged for connecting to the grid. There’s no need for a particular state to reinvent the wheel. Some states simply need to get their butts in gear and adopt best practices. To hold them accountable, we created a state solar report card last year. The 2010 results are published above.
It’s important to note that 42% of our states received passing grades (up from 30% last year) and 9 states got ‘A’ ratings (up from 4 last year).
The first two grading sections of the report (incentives and utility rate policies) were scored in 2010 by Solar Power Rocks. The last two sections (net metering and interconnection) were scored by the Solar Alliance and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) in their 2009 report, “Freeing the Grid”.
Scoring criteria were developed by Solar Power Rocks, guided from the Solar Alliance’s Four Pillars to Cost Effective Solar Policy.
Incentives (50% of total summary grade) – Available utility, state, and municipal incentives for customers to adopt solar energy. Rated by Solar Power Rocks in July, 2010. More info on all the states on the right hand sidebar of this page.
Grades reflect: Years to system payback accounting for all available incentives (25%), Tying residential solar incentives to system performance by opening the state market to SREC trading or large scale adoption of feed-in tariffs (10%), strength of utility and state rebates (5%), personal tax credits (4%), property tax exemption status (3%), availability of state loans (2%), and sales tax exemption status (1%).
Utility Policies (30% of summary grade) – Strong utility policies include a specific solar carve out in the state’s renewable energy portfolio. However, many states do not even have a renewable portfolio standard to speak of. Some states also continue to subsidize large non-renewable, polluting electricity generators which artificially creates lower utility prices. This lengthens payback on a solar investment. Compiled by Solar Power Rocks, 2010.
Grades reflect: Strength of a solar specific set aside in the state’s renewable portfolio standard (15%), strength of the overall state RPS (10%), existing electric rates (5%).
Interconnection (10% of summary grade) – The technical rules for solar customers to “plug in” to the electric grid. The more complex, out of date, or nonsensical the state rules are for plugging into the grid, the lower the grade.
Grades reflect: Eligible technologies, individual system capacity, removing interconnection process complexity for smaller systems, interconnection timelines and charges, engineering charges, prohibiting the requirement of unnecessary external disconnects, certification, spot interconnection vs. wide area interconnection, technical screens, friendliness of legalese, insurance requirements, dispute resolution, and rule coverage.
Net Metering (10% of summary grade) – The billing arrangement where customers get can sell excess electricity back to their utility for equal the amount they are charged to consume it. The more customer friendly net metering policies, the higher the grade.
Grades reflect: Individual solar system capacity, caps on program capacity limits, restrictions on “rollover” of kWh from one month to the next (yep just like cell phone minutes), metering issues (like charges for new meters), Renewable Energy Credit (REC) ownership, eligible customers and technology (the more renewables the better), being able to aggregate meters across the property for net metering, and safe harbor provisions to protect customers from solar tariff changes.
Thank you for your continued support, comments, and feedback. And please, if you are not in the position to even consider solar energy on your home, share this with your friends and family. Spreading the word about where states are and where they need to be helps us continue to research and provide easily digestible information to everyone on a regular basis.
If you haven’t already checked out your state’s solar return on investment timeframe, check it out here. Chances are you’re impressed and would like some more info or you’re disgusted and want to know why your state isn’t keeping up with the others. Ready to dive into the data and find out why your state scored the way it did? Awesome, let’s get started!