Net metering and grid interconnection may not be as sexy as solar panel breakthroughs and consumer products, but I think they are at least as important. And I think the renewable energy advocates and experts who create the annual Freeing the Grid report agree with me.
Freeing the Grid is a policy guide that grades all 50 states on two key programs: net metering and interconnection procedures. The 2011 Edition of Freeing the Grid was released this week. (I’ve been eagerly awaiting this year’s report for awhile now, but actually thought it came out later in the year.)
Here’s a little more on these policies and this year’s results from the news release (emphasis added):
Together these policies empower energy customers to use rooftop solar and other small-scale renewables to meet their own electricity needs. Now in its fifth year of publication, the report shows that states nationwide are continuing to embrace best practices and drive further improvements in these core renewable energy policies. The report’s methodology was also adopted for use in the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative, which aims to reduce the cost of going solar by 75% before the end of the decade.
Freeing the Grid 2011 report highlights:
• Net Metering Policies: Commonly known as the policy that lets a customer’s electric meter spin backwards, net metering is a simple billing arrangement that ensures solar customers receive fair credit for the electricity their systems generate during daytime hours. Net metering best practices have evolved to include virtual net metering,
meter aggregation and other innovative community solar models that allow energy consumers to come together and take advantage of economies of scale when investing in clean energy. In 2011, 17 states received top “A” grades for their net metering policies, up from 15 in 2010 and only 5 in 2007.
• Interconnection Procedures: Interconnection procedures are the rules and processes that an energy customer must follow to be able to “plug” their renewable energy system into the electricity grid. In some cases, the interconnection process is so lengthy, arduous and/or expensive that it thwarts the development of clean energy altogether. In recent years, many states have been working to streamline interconnection. In 2011, 23 states received “A” or “B” grades for good interconnection practices, up from twenty in 2010, and a tremendous improvement over the single “B” grade awarded in 2007.
• Head of the Class: Massachusetts and Utah received top “A” grades in both policy categories for the second year in a row. In 2011 they are joined at the vanguard of best practices by Delaware, which made particularly impressive improvements to its interconnection practices from last year’s “F” grade.
• Shows Promise: A number of states received an “A” in one category and a “B” in the other making them strong distributed renewable energy markets that have continued room for improvement: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
• Most Improved: Indiana made impressive year-over-year improvements, from a “D” in net metering and “C” in interconnection in 2010 to solid “B”s in both categories this year.
“The age of grid parity is upon us—in some places in the country, you can generate your own electricity with solar and wind more cheaply than buying dirty power from your utility. It’s truly the democratization of energy, but it only works if you have access to the plug and if you get fair credit for generation. Poor interconnection and net metering policies can stand in the way of building a sustainable, growth industry. Ensuring that residents and business have fair access to the grid and get fair credit on their utility bills are two simple but highly effective ways to unleash renewable energy growth,” said Kyle Rabin, Executive Director of NNEC [Network for New Energy Choice].
Freeing the Grid is produced annually by NNEC in partnership with Vote Solar, IREC [Interstate Renewable Energy Council], and the North Carolina Solar Center. The report is endorsed by Solar Alliance and the Solar Foundation. Download the full text of the 2011 report at: www.freeingthegrid.org.
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