If you want to install solar panels on you home in the USA, where you live matters. Your state’s laws and policies regarding solar power have a huge impact on the prospects for home solar, both practically (e.g., whether the laws in your state make it easy to get permits, connect your system to the grid, etc.) and financially (whether you can expect your panels to pay back your initial investment and eventually turn a profit).
A lot of people play a role in crafting the solar landscape of a state, including elected officials, utility company lobbyists, appointed members of public utilities commissions, and citizens’ groups, but all the states have one thing in common: a governor who sets the tone. Governors have a great deal to do with their state’s friendliness to rooftop solar power.
Nearly 90% of people favor an increase in the amount of solar panels installed around the country, so it stands to reason that we’d favor the candidates who align with that goal. If, that is, support for solar is a dealbreaker for you (we think it should be).
Why governors are so important when it comes to solar policy
The governor designs the state budget and sets the legislative agenda for their party. More importantly, in many states, the governor appoints the members of the public utilities commission, who get to decide on things like how much and how often electricity prices can rise, and whether the utilities must offer rebates for things like energy efficient appliances and renewable generation.
That’s why it’s important to know who your elected officials are and what they believe. It’s nearly election time, and if you live in one of the 36 states holding gubernatorial elections in 2018, you’ve got the the opportunity to choose between candidates who support or oppose your right to install solar panels on your home.
The 5 states where the governor matters most in 2018
We hope you use the information presented below to help guide your vote. Because there are so many races, and many of them are already pretty much decided, we’ve chosen to highlight the top 5 races in the country where voters have a clear choice. Wherever you live, we encourage you to question your candidates about their support for good policies that help homeowners go solar and get full credit for the electricity their systems produce.
Without further ado, here are the most important races for solar lovers in 2018:
- Current place in our state rankings: 19th
- Current governor: Doug Ducey (R) – Incumbent
- 2018 candidates: Doug Ducey (R) and David Garcia (D)
Arizona is an interesting and frustrating place for the proponents of solar power for homes. It used to be a bastion of great solar incentives and net metering protections that made going solar in Arizona almost a sure-thing for homeowners. But the past several years have seen the Arizona Corporation Commission allowing some of the state’s big utility companies to end net metering, institute demand charges, and generally much around with how they reimburse and assess charges to solar homeowners.
Despite the fact that the state is a study in how your electric company can make it harder to go solar, there are still many places where solar makes perfect financial sense, partly because some utilities still allow net metering, and the sun still shines brighter and longer in Arizona than it does in almost any other state.
One interesting fact: members of the Arizona Corporation Commission are elected, not appointed (except in cases of resignation, and the current governor has appointed commissioners twice). In large part, the people of Arizona have the ability to elect commissioners who who advocate for smart solar policy. So, they, uh.. should do that. If you’re looking for homeowner-friendly solar policies in Arizona, vote for Sandra Kennedy and Kiana Sears in the 2018 election.
Now on to the candidates for Governor:
Doug Ducey (R) – Incumbent
The 2018 ballot in Arizona will include Proposition 127, an update to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard that would expand the amount of energy the state’s utilities are required to generate from renewable sources to 50%, up from its current number of 15%. The utility companies would be responsible for building new renewable generation or helping people install their own (i.e. home solar panels) to meet the requirment, or pay fines for non-compliance.
In March of 2018, Governor Ducey signed House Bill 2005, which would allow the state largest utility, APS, to almost completely avoid penalties for not meeting the requirements of measure 27 or any other clean energy mandate.
When it comes to solar policy, that move is about as anti-solar as they come.
David Garcia (D)
David Garcia has a section on his website’s issues page calling for making Arizona “A solar superpower,” adding “Our utility rates go up and corporate profits soar while rooftop solar is stalled and innovation is stifled. We must leverage our natural resources and assets, working together across sectors, to build an economy for every worker. Let’s imagine more for our state and create an economy that leads the world in advanced energy jobs and local innovation.”
- Current place in our state rankings: 28th
- Current governor: Rick Scott (R) – Term-limited
- 2018 candidates: Ron DeSantis (R) and Andrew Gillum (D)
Florida, “The Sunshine State,” has seen a great deal of shade thrown on the residential solar market by the state’s political action groups. In 2016, utility companies funded a deceptive campaign for “Amendment 1,” which on its face seemed to support the right of Florida homeowners to own solar panels, but was worded to allow the utilities to squash competition and enshrine their rights to monopoly into state law.
Despite such attempts by the enemies of home solar, Florida is still a good place to make an investment in solar panels for you home. The state does have net metering for homeowners, but has no Renewable Portfolio Standard and minimal incentives. Still, with the amount of sun the state gets and the need for a lot of electricity to run air conditioners, Floridians can save money by going solar.
On to the 2018 candidates:
Ron DeSantis (R)
Ron DeSantis is a talker. When it comes to solar power, he’s said things like “Let the market decide if solar can do well.” and “I’m not going to give special subsidies for solar.”
His campaign website has a section on the environment, but it mostly covers the state’s water resources. There is no mention of climate change or renewable energy.
DeSantis has sat down with leaders in Florida’s “Advanced Energy” sector, which includes solar businesses, who shared their ideas for how a future governor could harness advanced energy technologies to improve the state. He reportedly “welcomed these ideas and affirmed his commitment to creating more jobs and growing Florida’s economy.”
Andrew Gillum (D)
Gillum is currently mayor of Tallahassee, and was instrumental in helping bring the city’s first solar farm into being. The city has allowed residents to sign up to receive shares of the solar energy produced by the farm, but at a slightly higher rate than the usual price of electricity. The city of Tallahassee operates a municipal electric utility that does offer a decent net metering program, but there are no other programs to help homeowners go solar.
Gillum’s campaign website has a robust section on environment that specifically mentions climate change as a threat and trumpet’s Tallahassee’s reduction of greenhouse gas emissions under Gillum, but does not mention specific policy proposals for improving Florida’s home solar market.
- Current place in our state rankings: 16th
- Current governor: Brian Sandoval (R) – Term-limited
- 2018 candidates: Adam Laxalt (R) and Steve Sisolak (D)
Nevada is another recent solar battleground state that’s seen a lot of turmoil in the recent past. In this case, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) passed utility-friendly rules that ended net metering in the state. The move created chaos in the lives of ordinary Nevadans as well as the state’s formerly robust solar industry, causing thousands of solar jobs to move out of the state.
In the end, Nevada’s outgoing governor Brian Sandoval heard the cries of his constituents, and supported smart laws that reinstated a decent facsimile of net metering and provided protections for people who had already installed solar panels on their roofs, so they’d never again have to face such a stressful renegotiation of the deal they thought they were getting from the utility.
Now, with Governor Sandoval headed out the door because of term limits, two new candidates must decide whether to support or oppose homeowners who want to go solar in the future.
Adam Laxalt (R)
Adam Laxalt reportedly “opposes any government policy aimed at spurring the market for renewable energy.”
His website has an energy and environment section on its Issues page that says Laxalt supports “more choice and competition in our energy sectors,” but that the candidate feels “too often, the heavy hand of government is used to try to force particular energy solutions on the entire population.” That sounds to us like a dog-whistle to supporters of Nevada’s Question 3, which would end the monopoly of longtime Nevada energy provider NV Energy, instead opening the market to competition through deregulation, as has happened in states like Texas.
There are no mentions of fighting climate change or support for solar power on Laxalt’s website.
Steve Sisolak (D)
Steve Sisolak’s website has an issues section, but without a mention of solar power. But Sisolak has voiced his support for solar power in ads and statements from his campaign.
“Steve will cement Nevada’s position as a leader in renewable energy by supporting the ballot initiative that will require electric suppliers to provide at least 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources, like solar, wind and geothermal energy by 2030. His ultimate goal is to power the state with 100 percent renewable energy,” the campaign said in a statement, adding that “Steve has a record of bringing solar projects to Nevada. His county district alone is on track to provide 500 megawatts of power from renewable energy.”
- Current place in our state rankings: 22nd
- Current governor: John Kasich (R) – Term-limited
- 2018 candidates: Mike DeWine (R) and Richard Cordray (D)
Oh, Ohio. You could be a contender, but you’re backwards legislature keeps trying to give the farm away to the coal industry. Back in 2016, Governor John Kasich had to veto a bill his own party pushed through the legislature that would have made the state’s already paltry clean energy requirements voluntary. And in 2018, the legislature is at it again, with a new bill to make renewable energy mandates into voluntary goals.
The effort to save the renewables requirement had little effect on the overall solar marketplace here, and Kasich didn’t end up leading a charge for an expanded law or any protections for homeowners, either. As it stands, the state has a pretty decent net metering standard and
Mike DeWine (R)
Mike DeWine is currently Ohio’s Attorney General, and during his time running for an occupying that office, received ample contributions from people and groups with connections to the fossil fuel industry.
DeWine has joined several times with other states’ Attorneys General in bringing suit in attempts to stop the Clean Power Plan from taking effect.
His campaign issues page is missing any mention of climate change, solar power, or renewable electricity.
Richard Cordray (D)
Richard Cordray is the former head of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and was also once Ohio’s Attorney General. Cordray has a section of his issues page dedicated to clean energy, and a Clean Energy Plan that includes a proposal to strengthen Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard law.
- Current place in our state rankings: 37th
- Current governor: Nathan Deal (R) – Term-limited
- 2018 candidates: Brian Kemp (R) and Stacey Abrams (D)
Georgia is the final state in our little 2018 roundup, and it’s seen its share of ups and downs when it comes to solar power. The state’s biggest utility, Georgia Power, is happy to get energy from utility-scale solar farms, but perhaps not quite so jazzed about supporting homeowners in their efforts to go install solar panels on their homes (though they have begun a pilot community solar program).
The state has no RPS and no statewide incentives, leaving homeowners with few options for solar that makes financial sense. If you can find a good price for a solar panel installation, you’ll be able to make a decent profit, but if you live outside a major metropolitan area, you might not have any options for a professional install.
Brian Kemp (R)
Brian Kemp is currently the Secretary of State for Georgia. Kemp’s website has an issues page, but no mention of climate, energy, or solar.
State PSC member Lauren “Bubba” McDonald said that Kemp “understands the power of solar and supports renewable energy policies that are market-driven, affordable and good for Georgia families.”
Stacey Abrams (D)
Stacey Abrams was most recently minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives. She’s pledged to increase the adoption of solar throughout Georgia. Her Advanced Energy jobs plan includes the statement “We will aid local communities in accelerating solar permitting and explore policies to allow community solar access across Georgia.”
Abrams is also proud of her record of supporting legislation during her tenure as House Minority Leader that has expanded solar access and helped Georgians go solar (HBs 238, 515, 516, and 57). She kicked off a “Jobs for Georgia” tour of the state by meeting with workers from Coastal Solar on a fact-finding mission to learn about their successes and struggles in the Georgia solar market.
Last modified: October 10, 2018