When it comes to solar and other clean energy sources, state policy is crucial. Policies can range across the spectrum and make the difference between whether or not a clean energy action makes financial sense. Reading through these policies, though, can be a nightmare, filled with jargon that seems impossible to understand.
Thankfully, for the past nine years IREC and Vote Solar have been releasing an annual report card called Freeing The Grid, which rates states on their clean energy policies. It specifically looks at states’ net metering and interconnection standards. These policies, more than any other, empower individuals to switch to rooftop solar and other distributed clean energy options.
Where does each state fall?
Freeing The Grid’s interactive map makes it easy to see what grade each state has achieved, along with how they compare to one another. And the slider at the bottom quickly shows how states’ grades have changed over the past nine years. It’s exciting to see the overall trend of improvement throughout the years!
Clicking on a state gives a more detailed look at how it attained its grade. Grades for both net metering and interconnection are shown, along with details outlining the programs in the state.
Freeing The Grid provides recommendations on which policy changes would be most beneficial, and there’s even an education center if you want to learn more.
Does the grade translate to cost?
The grades in Freeing The Grid aren’t directly based on costs, but costs and grades do relate to one another. Net metering, in particular, affects savings for rooftop solar. Each state has a different net metering program, and some pay better than others. Interconnection also relates to costs, since fees and limitations vary by state and can end up adding a significant cost to a new solar system.
Overall, the grades are helpful at showing how friendly state policy is toward clean energy. But they’re just one tool in the shed. Another factor to consider when making the switch to clean energy is grid parity. For residential solar, grid parity is reached when the cost of generating electricity from solar (including installation costs) becomes competitive with the cost of power from the the grid.
A new report from GTM Research shows where rooftop solar has already reached grid parity. Already, 20 states have reached it, with 42 expected to get there by 2020! Looking at the list side-by-side with the Freeing The Grid grades, we can see that most of the states with grid parity got either an A or B grade. (You’ll notice a few states got an F in one area. That indicates a lack of net metering policy or interconnection standards at the state level.)
Some states that are graded highly haven’t reached grid parity yet. But you can bet they will in a few years’ time.
How to use these grades
For people who live in a state with strong grades, solar may be an excellent way to save some money while making the switch to clean energy. But no one should automatically rule out solar if they live in a state that doesn’t have a good grade, or falls somewhere in the middle. Everyone’s situation is unique, and they may still be able to save with clean energy. And it won’t be long till even more states become favorable locations for solar.