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2010 Freeing the Grid: Which States Made the Grade?

There are plenty of not-so-sunny renewable policy news headlines these days. Congress failed to pass comprehensive energy legislation this year – and as of yesterday, things don’t even look good for a piecemeal extension of the critical Treasury Grant Program before it expires this month. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Despite gridlock higher up, state and local leaders have been busy expanding opportunities for Americans to invest in our new energy economy.

Along with our partners at NNEC, IREC and the North Carolina Solar Center, we just released the 2010 Edition of Freeing the Grid, our policy guide that grades states on two key programs: net metering and interconnection procedures. Together these policies empower energy customers to use solar and other renewables to meet their own electricity needs. Now in its fourth year of publication, the 2010 report shows that states continue to drive renewable energy progress.

Some highlights from this year’s report:

* Net Metering Rules: You know this one – the policy that lets a customer’s electric meter spin backwards. In 2010, 37 states received “A” or “B” grades for their net metering policies, up from 13 states 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. The goal is to keep this process from being so lengthy, arduous or expensive that it thwarts the development of clean energy altogether. In 2010, twenty states received “A” or “B” grades for good interconnection practices, a tremendous improvement over the solitary “B” grade awarded in 2007.

* Head of the Class: Massachusetts and Utah received exceptional “A” grades in both interconnection and net metering. This is the first time in the report’s history that any state has achieved “A” grades in both categories.

* Most Likely to Succeed: Colorado’s use of proven best practices and innovative new policy models earned it the top score in net metering. Colorado allows many customer types and systems sizes to benefit from net metering, enabling broad participation in the state’s renewable energy economy. In 2010, the state also took pioneering steps to allow shared, community solar energy systems to receive net metering credits through “Community Solar Gardens.”

And a few words from our valedictorians:

* Colorado Governor Bill Ritter: “I am proud that Colorado is leading the way on distributed renewable energy. We have worked hard to diversify our energy supplies and create jobs, while also trying to make distributed renewable energy affordable for our commercial and residential sectors. This is smart, forward-thinking policy that other states can, and should, follow.”

* Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles: “That Massachusetts earned the top ranking in this national report is further proof of the Commonwealth’s clean energy leadership. New net metering regulations adopted under the Green Communities Act of 2008 increase the value of renewable power for those who install it – putting the economic value of power generated by these projects on par with electricity purchased from the grid while accelerating the development of renewable energy projects across the state. In addition, the administration continues its efforts to ensure that the ever-increasing number of projects completed are interconnected in an expeditious fashion.”

* Sara Baldwin, of Utah Clean Energy: “Utah’s decision-makers have increasingly recognized the full value of renewable energy resources and worked alongside the clean energy stakeholders to remove barriers to their adoption. Seeing that progress reflected in this year’s grades reminds us of how rewarding and productive a process it’s been. Utah Clean Energy looks forward to continuing to work with all vested stakeholders to ensure that Utah’s high marks in Freeing the Grid translate into more renewable energy projects and more opportunities for job creation and economic development, statewide.”

A hearty congratulations to these states for their leadership and vision in driving real renewable energy progress and job growth. In combination with policies that grow wholesale renewable generation for the utility sector, these state-level policies for customer self-generation are building robust and sustainable renewable energy markets across the country.

Let’s keep up the good work. With 2011 just around the corner, we look forward to working alongside policymakers, regulators and other partners to continue building our nation’s new energy economy, state by state.

Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.