Today the Vote Solar Initiative (Vote Solar) and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC) released our official 2012 findings for Freeing the Grid, a policy report that grades all 50 states on two key programs: net metering and interconnection procedures. Together, these policies empower American energy consumers to use rooftop solar and other small-scale renewables to meet their own electricity needs. The report was released during Solar Power International in Orlando.
Now in its sixth year of production, Freeing the Grid is a guide for improving state net metering and interconnection rules. The online report and resource center is designed to make it easy to access, understand and share best practices and state progress on these foundational renewable energy policies.
“Freeing the Grid is an invaluable tool for the solar industry, state decision makers and consumers. By measuring our progress on these policies year after year, it tells us where we’ve been and where we need to go,” says Jane Weissman, Executive Director of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.
“An interesting trend this year: we saw improvement in many states that are already leading our nation’s solar market. Once they got a taste of what solar power can do, they decided they wanted more. Freeing the Grid provides a roadmap for all 50 states to be able to do the same,” said Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar.
Net Metering: Like rollover minutes on a cell phone bill, net metering gives renewable energy customers fair credit on their utility bills for valuable clean power they put back on the grid. The District of Columbia, Minnesota and New York improved their grades over 2011. Net metering best practices have evolved to include virtual net metering, meter aggregation and other innovative community shared models. New Jersey and Maryland added a bonus point to their already-stellar A’s in Net Metering for allowing meter aggregation.
Interconnection Procedures: These are the rules and processes that an energy customer must follow to be able to “plug” their renewable energy system into the electricity grid. This process should be straightforward, transparent and fair. Nine states received outstanding A grades this year, a significant improvement from five in 2011 and none in 2007, the first year of Freeing the Grid’s publication.
Head of the Class: A record number of states (5!) received A’s for excellence in both net metering and interconnection policies this year: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts and Utah.
Most Improved: Hawaii leapt from an F grade to a solid B in Interconnection. In November 2011, the state adopted simplified interconnection rules for small renewable systems that effectively streamline the previously arduous review process.
We have also provided case studies providing a deeper dive into issues at the forefront of policy implementation across the U.S. This year’s In Focus articles provide real world examples of best practices in both net metering (valuing costs and benefits) and interconnection (streamlining connection at high penetration levels), as well as an example of worst practices in net metering (network use charges).
Freeing the Grid is produced by IREC and Vote Solar in partnership with the North Carolina Solar Center, which manages the DSIRE database. Its grading 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.
Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.