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The SPR 2009 State by State Solar Report Card

solar report card

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.

Grading Criteria:

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 The more complex, out of date, or nonsensical the state rules are for plugging into the grid, the lower the grade.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.

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10 thoughts on “The SPR 2009 State by State Solar Report Card

  1. Cloud Ponderer says:

    What about the simple factor of RATES?

    From a quick look at your summary, it appears that little weight was given to the most pervasive determinant of all — ELECTRICITY RATES. My bet is that this factor alone could be used as an indicator of potential solar benefits.

    The Colorado renewable energy standard is roughly the same as California (and arguably larger since it does not include hydro). We have rebates and the same federal tax credit, but we have one problem, CHEAP POWER which skews the numbers against solar.

    This could explain the whole red state vs. blue state observation as well. “Red” states with their smaller population centers also would have cheaper power.

    How ’bout giving us this relatively simple analysis for comparison?

    Thanks the all your effort.

    “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Confucius

    1. Dan Hahn says:

      Hi Cloud Ponderer,

      I got the electricity rates covered in the 2010 report, stay tuned for the release next week!

      – Dan

  2. Paul Appleton says:

    Noting VT and NH ON GRID, REPORT CARD. WONDER IF ALL SKI RESORTS CAN CONVERT TO LOCAL, SOLAR GENERATION RATHER THAN NIBBLING, PR episodes of REC usage.

  3. Eric Oliver says:

    Not surprisingly, most of the states at the top of the list are “blue” states and the vast majority of states on the bottom of the list are “red” states. not sure why energy conservation became a political issue, but it clearly is…

  4. Joy King says:

    I love your chart! It makes those problem areas really stand out. I analyze paved parking statistics through GIS spatial analysis and use the data I create to promote solar parking lots – may I use your chart? Or use your color-scheme idea to create my own in Excel? Great work!

  5. Warren McKenna says:

    More in depth research is needed on this report card. Being from Iowa and recently having installed a PV system I can tell you the incentives in Iowa arn’t what you assume they are. For solar Iowa should rank well below MN and WI. As they say “read the fine print”

    1. Dan Hahn says:

      Hi Warren,

      We’ve been looking back into some of the states and incentives. The most Wisconsin or Minnesota would move is 15 scaled points (even with excellent incentives, which they still don’t have comparably). This would equate to moving from an F to a D.

      Regardless we’ll revisit the scores and update the card next year.

  6. This is a very interesting survey, I write a green family blog here in Texas and was disappointed to see that big TX only scored an F, we have alot of work to do here and hopefully will move up the chart in 2010.
    My family is hoping to install roof top solar next year and we’re trying to change make Texas greener one blog at a time! Thanks for the great info…

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