American energy policy is often said to take shape in the states before being adopted across the country – especially when it comes to renewable energy. Considering this, it’s a good thing we’ve got Freeing the Grid 2.0.
The interactive guide, now in its sixth year, highlights states with pro-renewable energy policies and promotes best practices to states lagging behind in getting projects built and connected to the grid. States are awarded grades from A to F, based on their policy landscape.
Freeing the Grid focuses on two of the most important yet least-understood policies powering new rooftop solar and small-scale renewable projects – net metering and grid interconnection procedures.
Little-Known Policies, Well-Known Impacts
Net metering, which guarantees solar owners are paid for unused power flowing back to the grid from their arrays, has gotten a lot of attention lately. California, the nation’s largest solar market, recently extended its existing cap of five percent aggregate customer peak demand. The limit was being pushed up against by record solar growth in the state. But, now extended, it should cover about 2.1 gigawatts (GW) of additional projects.
Interconnection, however, is much more complicated, and refers to the legal rules and procedures that connect a renewable energy system into the power grid. Power generators work within a set of rules established by state public utility commissions to determine who connects to the grid, under which circumstances, to ensure a reliable level of electricity supply to meet demand and prevent blackouts. Many interconnection standards, determined by monopoly utilities operating in each state, created significant barriers to customers being paid for excess electricity flowing onto the grid.
From the Head of the Class to Summer School
Now, with all the technical jargon out of the way, which states lead the country in pro-renewable energy policies?
Somewhat surprisingly, only three states received A’s in both net metering and interconnection policy: Delaware, Massachusetts, and Utah. 2012 is the third consecutive year with all A’s for Massachusetts and Utah, and the second year in a row for Delaware.
A total of 11 states received all A’s and B’s, indicating a little extra studying could boost them to the head of the class. California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Maryland, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia were ranked as strong distributed generation markets, up from 10 in 2011.
Consistent and unbiased policy is key, says the report, because “uniform net metering and interconnection rules unleash innovation, lower costs, and make it easier for customers to invest in renewable energy.”
Unfortunately, ten states received at least one “F” or have no statewide net metering/interconnection policies in place, meaning they could flunk renewables 101. Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee – please report to the principal’s office.
School analogies aside, its no surprise the most inconsistent or anti-renewable policies are found in some of the most fossil-dependent states. “It is entirely possible to stymie the development of renewable generation in an entire state by including one or more counterproductive provisions,” says the report. “Net metering and interconnection rules are only as strong as their weakest link.”
For more information, check out this animated video explaining the report: