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’ve created a state solar report card. The results are published above.
It’s important to note only 30% of our states received passing grades and only 4 states got ‘A’ ratings: New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, and Maryland.
The first two grading sections of the report (net metering and interconnection) were scored by the Solar Alliance and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) in their 2008 report, “Freeing the Grid”. The last two sections (incentives and utility rate policies) were scored in 2009 by Solar Power Rocks.
Scoring criteria were developed by Solar Power Rocks, guided from the Solar Alliance’s Four Pillars to Cost Effective Solar Policy.
Interconnection – 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 The more complex, out of date, or nonsensical the state rules are for plugging into the grid, the lower the grade.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 – 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.
Incentives – Available utility, state, and/or municipality incentives for customers to adopt solar energy. Rated by Solar Power Rocks from 2007-2009. More info on all the states on the right hand side of this page.
Grades reflect: Encouragement of business growth and investment with large-scale, long-term programs, tying incentives to system performance, easement of incentives over time as the market grows and prices decline, support for a broad range of system types and sizes, simplicity, transparency, and ease of program administration, policy development with stakeholder groups, publishing timely, comprehensive and consistent data on installed systems, recognizing the environmental attributes of solar production.
Utility Rate Policies – Strong utility rate policies decouple utility profits from revenues to encourage efficiency and on-site generation. 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, 2009.
Grades reflect: Time of use (TOU) billing, and tiered utility rate schedules, aligning utility shareholder and customer benefits resulting from utility solar investments, encouraging rate structures that align peak retail and wholesale costs, eliminating “volume discounts” that discourage efficiency, including commercial rate plans that exchange low or no demand charges for higher energy charges, providing a range of rates to incentivize efficiency and peak reductions, allowing customers to choose a solar friendly rate.