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SPR Report Card 2010 – Part 2 – State by State Summary Grades

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”.

Grading Criteria:

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!

2010 SPR Solar Report Card Navigation:


Part 1, Residential Solar Energy ROI by State
Part 2, Residential Solar Report Card Summary Grades (you are here)
Part 3, Electric Utility Policies and Rates
Part 4, Solar Incentive Summary Grades
Part 5, Solar Yearly Performance Payments by State
Part 6, State Rebate Details
Part 7, Tax Credit Overview by State
Part 8, Property Tax Exemptions
Part 9, State Loans for Solar
Part 10, Sales Tax Exemptions

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7 thoughts on “SPR Report Card 2010 – Part 2 – State by State Summary Grades

  1. scott says:

    This report card confuses me, for example, how does Illinois receive an”A” for incentives when they have none and Arizona receives a “C” when 3 major utilities offer significant Production Based Incentives and the state offers a tax credit?

  2. Billy C says:

    Louisiana has a 50% tax credit incentive. Why did that state get an “F” in that category?

    1. Dan Hahn says:

      Hi Billy C,

      I think I may have responded to this earlier but am reposting:

      While Louisiana does indeed have a 50% tax credit, it is capped at $12,500. Therefore, only if you have the tax liability AND you install a small system <2kW, are you able to achieve a fast payback. While tax credits are a very nice option for some people, SREC payments, Feed-in tariffs, and utility rebates are much much better for everyone else. Louisiana has none of those other options, mainly because there is no carve out for solar in the state's renewable energy standard.

      Idaho for instance has a 100% tax credit for solar up to $20,000. That's pretty great (for some people). But that does not justify an overall incentive "A" in this report. Personal tax credits are worth only about 8% of the total incentive portion of the report card. Years to payback on a 5kW system is worth 50%, then performance payments 20%, rebates 10%.

      You can see more details of the incentives portion of report in Part 4 – Incentive Summary Grades.

  3. Mike B says:

    While the grades for solar may be fair, please realize that solar may not be the most economical “green” option for every state. The central plains (ND/MN to TX) have been developing wind power like crazy, and the northwest relies heavily on hydropower. Perhaps evaluations regarding all types of energy development?

    1. Dan Hahn says:

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the comment. True, other states are rallying strong behind wind, however we’re Solar Power Rocks, not Wind Power Blows or Hydro Power Flows. Therefore, the focus here is about solar. Also, there’s quite a bit of debate about whether hydro power is really all that “green”. Of course we’d love to see more wind power everywhere.

  4. Susan K says:

    Great piece. Surprising how California has fallen compared with the cap and trade states in the Northeast (RGGI members)

    One quibble, though. Since “interconnection policies” is just a bureaucratic mire that solar professionals – not actual people – have to deal with behind the scenes – does that intricacy really matter? They get it all done, so, it is ok for the rest of us.

    1. Dan Hahn says:

      Hi Susan,

      Yes, it is a little alarming how quickly California fell down the report card, especially in the “incentives” category. This is something we felt a little ambivalent about, since it was California after all who really catalyzed the solar industry across the country. They designed their incentive structure well, and the rewards for going solar got less juicy as time went on. When you compare the financial benefits of solar in all of California against all the other states now and standardize things, you’ll see how early solar adopters got a much better deal. Right now, solar is more difficult to justify in the state, unless you live in a city with it’s own solar program (like Coachella, Napa, Sacramento, etc. )

      As far as interconnection policies go, yes it still matters. The more mired and complex those policies are, the more difficult it is for paperwork that the solar companies file with the state and utility to get their credits for is. “Racking system required? Hold up a second, this needs to be reviewed by our team, that will only take 7 months. We also think you need another DC disconnect on the property because it is unique, so install that, then refile the paperwork (3 months down the road, we’ll maybe approve it)”.

      As you can see, the more wrangling the install teams need to deal with (many times it is completely unnecessary), the poorer customer experience, and lack of a good buzz about how smooth going solar really is. Too many state public utilities commissions need to adopt standards that are out there already instead of trying to develop their own poor ones. So, this really is an important piece, one the public needs to be more aware of to push legislators to do something about.

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