New ‘Freeing the Grid’ report released; states improving best practices that drive renewable energy markets and job growth

FTGCover09New York – November 24, 2009 – Renewable energy advocates today released the 2009 Edition of Freeing the Grid, a policy guide that grades states on their current net metering and interconnection practices. Together these two policies empower energy customers to use solar and other renewables to meet their own electricity needs. This third edition of the report finds that, although net metering and interconnection policies still vary widely, states have made significant strides in adopting the best practices that drive renewable energy market growth and job creation.

“Understanding these policies is critical because each provision in a state’s rules for net metering and interconnection has the potential to be a powerful incentive or a poison pill for the growth of renewables in that state. Freeing the Grid offers a clear, reliable roadmap to maximizing the former and avoiding the latter. Our hope is that it will continue to lay the groundwork for robust markets in solar and other distributed renewable energy sources,” said Kyle Rabin, NNEC’s Executive Director.

Freeing the Grid is produced annually by the Network for New Energy Choices (NNEC). This year’s edition features collaboration from Vote Solar, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC), the Solar Alliance and the North Carolina Solar Center. Download the full text of the 2009 report at: www.freeingthegrid.org

  • Interconnection Standards are the technical requirements and legal procedures that allow a customer-sited generator to “plug-into” the electricity grid. To ensure best practices and eliminate the potential for utility interference, this interconnection process should be governed by a transparent, non-arbitrary set of provisions that facilitate rather than hinder connection to the grid. The new edition of Freeing the Grid reports 15 states with A or B grades in interconnection standards, a significant improvement from only one state in 2007. Virginia is the first and only state to receive an A for excellent interconnection rules.
  • Net Metering is a simple billing arrangement that allows solar customers to get fair retail credit for the excess electricity their systems generate during daytime hours. Under best practices, 1 kWh generated by the customer has the exact same value as 1 kWh consumed by the customer. There should not be arbitrary limits on the size of the systems nor the total number of systems allowed to participate. The new edition of Freeing the Grid reports 27 states with A or B grades in net metering standards, up from 13 in 2007. Eight states (Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas) still do not have statewide net metering programs.
  • Best Practices Case Study: Oregon. Using best practices proven in other states as a starting point, Oregon has implemented net metering and interconnection standards that put the state at the head of the class. Oregon’s inclusive net metering program goes beyond standard practices with its aggregation rule that allows customers, such as farmers, who may have more than one electric meter on their property, to use net metering credits at multiple sites, allowing more cost effective use of renewable energy. State regulators have set up simplified interconnection procedures and reduced unnecessary safety requirements for smaller systems. By combining strong net metering and interconnection procedures with an over-all comprehensive renewable energy strategy — which includes generous rebates and a strong RPS with a 20-MW solar carve-out — Oregon is set to expand renewable energy statewide.

“Looking at how many of these states have moved from lackluster to stellar grades in just three years, it’s clear that there is a growing understanding of the benefits that these policies deliver,” said Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar. “Although we still have much room for improvement, this country is moving quickly toward a place where these once-obscure concepts – good net metering and interconnection standards – are becoming accepted best practices for supporting customer investment in renewable energy.”

“Along with incentives and fair utility rate structures, these two policies form the backbone of our nation’s rooftop solar energy markets and the local jobs they create. If unnecessary hurdles are removed and customers are fairly compensated for delivering clean electricity to the grid, U.S. homes and businesses can and do go solar,” said Jane Weissman, Executive Director of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc..  “This report shows that real progress on net metering and interconnection can be made quickly and effectively.”

“Half the battle of cultivating the development of solar energy and other renewables in any state can be won by adopting 21st-century standards for interconnection and net metering,” said Rusty Haynes, who manages the DSIRE project at N.C. State University. “Happily, by clearly explaining the complex policy issues involved and by providing model rules that embrace best practices from all over the United States, Freeing the Grid 2009 provides the answer key to establishing effective policy. This report will spare policymakers, businesses and consumers from having to engage in a sobering marathon of chewy legal research.”

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) provided the foreword for this year’s edition of the report. “I invite you to consider Freeing the Grid a valuable tool for working with legislators to improve your state’s policies and practices. Every state can and should earn ‘A’ grades in next year’s edition. Together, let’s use this as a roadmap to help all 50 states move towards greater energy independence, economic opportunity, and cleaner air,” said the Senator.

These state policies are continuously evolving to meet the changing needs of energy customers and a dynamic U.S. renewable energy market. 2009’s Freeing the Grid also explores best practices and market implications for some of these new mechanisms including: third-party Power Purchase Agreements, community net metering, and Feed-in Tariff incentive structures.

About NNEC: Network for New Energy Choices (NNEC) promotes policies that ensure safe, clean, and environmentally responsible energy options. www.newenergychoices.org

About Vote Solar: The Vote Solar Initiative is a grassroots non-profit organization working to combat climate change and foster economic development by bringing solar energy into the mainstream. www.votesolar.org

About IREC: The Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC) is a premier resource for current information, education, credentialing and best practices regarding renewable energy. www.irecusa.org

About the Solar Alliance: The Solar Alliance is a state-focused association of solar equipment manufacturers, integrators and financiers working with state administrators, legislators and utilities to establish cost-effective solar policies and programs. www.solaralliance.org

About the North Carolina Solar Center: A public service center at North Carolina State University, the Solar Center manages the go-to resource for current clean energy policies nationwide, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE). www.ncsc.ncsu.edu

 

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