New National Scorecard Grades State Shared Renewables Programs

Spring was always report card time – met by smiles or cringes, depending on your progress. With shared renewable energy programs launching in more than a dozen states over the past decade, we thought it was time to start grading states on their program’s strengths and weaknesses.

It’s not an exercise to call out the best and worst state programs. Rather, it’s a valuable tool for policymakers, regulators and other stakeholders to compare active state shared renewables programs using a common metric, as disparities in design elements and inconsistencies in nomenclature have made it increasingly challenging to evaluate their merits.

Launched today, IREC’s new National Shared Renewables Scorecard, offers a first-of-its-kind simple scholastic grading system (A+ through D-) in the form of a free online resource. It evaluates state programs that are up and running using objective scoring criteria based on best practices for program design – programs that enable multiple customers to share the economic benefits of one renewable energy system via their individual utility bills.

As shared renewable energy – particularly shared solar, aka community solar – is an increasingly promising model to scale the economic and environmental benefits of clean energy, the new national scorecard aims to help move states toward successful models, so more Americans in more states can directly benefit.

The scorecard evaluates programs according to defined criteria in five categories:
(1) general program details; (2) customers and subscriptions; (3) generation systems; (4) bill credits; and (5) renewable energy credits. Additional detail on these criteria and definitions of key terms associated with them can be found on the national scorecard website, including key takeaways.

Okay, I’ll get to the punch line. Currently active programs received these grades:

  • Two A grades: Maryland and Washington, DC.
  • Six B grades: Colorado, Delaware, Massachusetts (Virtual Net Metering), Minnesota, New Hampshire and New York.
  • Five C grades: California (Virtual Net Metering), Connecticut (Virtual Net Metering), Massachusetts (Neighborhood Net Metering), Maine and Vermont.
  • One D grade: California (Enhanced Community Renewables component of Green Tariff Shared Renewables).

Our work in multiple states over the years has taught us that certain design elements are critical to ensuring a robust shared renewable energy market. The national scorecard, along with IREC’s other resources, will help states skip the steep learning curve and more quickly adopt best practices for shared renewables programs, avoiding pitfalls we know can get in the way of success.

The scorecard’s criteria are shaped by IREC’s extensive experience in state proceedings for shared renewable energy over the past decade, and further guided by input from diverse external stakeholders. They are based on best practices highlighted in IREC’s Model Rules for Shared Renewable Energy Programs and in alignment with IREC’s Guiding Principles for Shared Renewable Energy Programs. Our Shared Renewables Policy Catalog offers a detailed overview of state shared renewables program rules. Used together, the catalog and the scorecard offer valuable insight into the components of these programs and their effectiveness.

Beyond the 14 state programs the scorecard currently grades, additional programs have been enacted via legislation and/or are still under development through regulatory rulemaking. These will be graded once finalized and implemented. To date, 21 state shared renewable energy programs have been enabled across 15 states and the District of Columbia.

There’s also a user-friendly DIY Scoring Tool along with the national scorecard, allowing policymakers and other stakeholders to use the same criteria to score other programs – including proposed or pending state programs – to evaluate the impact of certain components on the overall program design.

Check out the scorecard. See how your state and others are doing with new and evolving shared renewables models. And join me for a webinar to learn more of the details, Friday May 19, at 12 noon ET, along with my colleague Erica McConnell. Register