IREC’s 2020 Impacts: Building the Foundation for Rapid Clean Energy Growth
The IREC team had many positive impacts this year that helped advance the growth of clean energy. Read on to explore our accomplishments in 2020 that bring us closer to our vision of a 100% clean energy future that is resilient, reliable, and equitable.
Regulatory Wins for Clean Energy
Improving Solar and Storage Interconnection
Interconnection, the process of connecting distributed energy resources to the grid, can be a lengthy and complex process for renewable energy systems that adds time and cost to project development. IREC’s Regulatory Team works in states around the country to improve interconnection processes and other key policies for renewable energy growth. Notable successes include:
- California: Culminating years of engagement by IREC, in September, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued sweeping changes to the state’s interconnection rules (“Rule 21”), including several never-before-implemented advances that significantly improve the process for adding more renewable energy to the grid. Read our press release about Rule 21.
- Minnesota: Hosting Capacity Analysis (HCA) is a tool that can show where on the electric grid capacity exists to quickly interconnect more distributed energy resources, without additional upgrades or costs. At IREC’s recommendation, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission required improvements to HCA results from the utility Xcel that will make the HCA data more useful for clean energy developers. Learn more about the Minnesota PUC’s decision here.
- Maryland: After nearly two years of deliberation, The Maryland Public Service Commission adopted updated interconnection rules that will improve the efficiency of the interconnection process for customers and utilities, increase grid transparency, and enable a clearer pathway for energy storage and solar-plus-storage systems. Learn more about Maryland’s new interconnection rules.
- Launching the “BATRIES” project: The interconnection process for energy storage projects has also been difficult and unclear. With support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office, IREC and our partners (shown below) launched the three-year Building a Technically Reliable Interconnection Evolution for Storage (BATRIES) project. BATRIES will identify and develop solutions to barriers in the interconnection of standalone energy storage and solar-plus-storage projects. Learn more about the BATRIES project.
Supporting Grid Modernization
Grid modernization includes reforms to enable a more distributed, reliable and cleaner electricity grid, but not all proposals are created equal. In partnership with GridLab, IREC published A Playbook for Modernizing the Distribution Grid (“GridMod Playbook”). The Playbook provides a framework to help regulators and stakeholders assess the merits of proposed grid modernization plans, investments, and initiatives. Get the GridMod Playbook.
Building the Clean Energy Workforce
Weatherization, the practice of modifying buildings to optimize energy efficiency and protect interiors from the elements, has numerous health, equity, and climate benefits. In partnership with DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), IREC created an innovative online training program to help staff of DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) — country’s single largest residential whole-house energy efficiency program — run efficient and effective weatherization operations. In the first eight months of the program, over 20,000 courses have been completed! Learn more about IREC weatherization training.
Clean Energy Credentialing
IREC’s credentialing program provides quality assurance to the clean energy sector as it rapidly evolves. As the sole accrediting body for clean energy training in the United States, IREC accredits and oversees the quality of more than 100 training providers across the country. IREC accreditation assures that workers are trained to the highest standards. Learn more.
A Career Map for Energy Efficiency
There are many rewarding career opportunities in energy efficiency. This year, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Building Technologies Office, we launched a project to create a career map that helps diverse audiences understand the jobs and paths for career progression in this important sector. Learn more and stay tuned for the completed map in 2021.
Clean Energy Training for Allied Professions
It’s not only clean energy workers who shape the growth of clean energy in the U.S. Other key professions whose work intersects with solar, energy storage, and other renewable energy systems—such as code officials and firefighters—also need quality training to protect their safety and that of the systems. Did you know over 250 code officials and 1,200 firefighters were trained by IREC in 2020 alone? You can learn more about that training here.
Improving Clean Energy Codes and Standards
Sustainable Energy Action Committee (SEAC)
The Sustainable Energy Action Committee (SEAC) is a forum where diverse stakeholders can come together to identify and develop solutions to clean energy code enforcement and permitting challenges.
With support from DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, IREC became the administrator of SEAC this year and began to scale SEAC nationally. Over three years, SEAC will identify barriers to solar and solar-plus-storage growth and develop solutions that can be adopted around the country. Learn more about SEAC, and IREC’s role, here.
Uniting with The Solar Foundation
IREC signed an agreement with The Solar Foundation to merge into a single, expanded nonprofit dedicated to the rapid adoption of clean energy. Both organizations are deeply engaged with state and local governments to help streamline codes and permitting requirements and remove barriers to clean energy development. The merger — which is anticipated to be complete in 2021 — will combine the strengths of two renowned national clean energy organizations, effectively doubling staff and quadrupling impact. Read more about the merger with The Solar Foundation.