Freeing the Grid: Which States Made the Clean Energy Grade?

Co-authored with Rosalind Jackson (Vote Solar) and James Rose (Network for New Energy Choices).

Ever since we hinted at it back in September, we imagine that you, dear reader, have been anxiously awaiting our latest update to the Freeing the Grid report. Well, wait no longer - today we released the 2010 Edition of Freeing the Grid, a 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 indicates - surprise! - that states continue to drive progress in the nation's renewable energy economy.

Electricity rules and regulations can be incredibly complex and difficult to get right, particularly in the pioneering territory of connecting renewable energy to the grid at your home or business. Freeing the Grid is intended to help states understand how their policies currently rank, compare themselves to other states and learn how to improve them to achieve real renewable energy market and job growth. The tremendous progress we've seen over the four short years of the report's publication leaves no doubt that states are able and willing to tackle these tough issues and advance our clean energy economy.

Before we take a look at the report's key findings, two quick definitions to better understand the two policies that we grade each year:

  • Net metering: Commonly known as the policy that enables a customer's electric meter spin backwards, net metering is a simple billing arrangement that ensures solar customers receive fair credit for the excess electricity their systems generate.
  • 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. In some cases, the interconnection process is so lengthy, arduous and/or expensive that it thwarts the development of clean energy altogether.

The results according to this year's edition of Freeing the Grid? Drumroll please...

37 states received "A" or "B" grades for their net metering policies, up from 13 states in 2007. In 2010, twenty states received "A" or "B" grades for good interconnection practices, a tremendous improvement over the lone "B" grade awarded in 2007.

Massachusetts and Utah moved to the head of the class with exceptional "A" grades in both interconnection and net metering. This is the first time in the report's history that any state has achieved an "A" grade in both categories.

Who's most likely to succeed in achieving a robust clean energy economy?

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 system 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."

Colorado Gov. Ritter, who contributed the foreword to the 2010 report, said that "these policies allow energy consumers to declare energy independence and generate their own renewable electricity. They diversify our energy supplies and create new jobs and economic opportunity. They help make solar and other distributed renewables an affordable option. They clear the way for private investment in a new energy infrastructure that benefits us all. They are truly empowering." How does it feel to be the governor of the state that made the best grade? Says Ritter, "I am proud that Colorado is leading the way on distributed renewable energy. But there is no reason each and every state can't put the right policies in place to harness the many benefits of this new energy economy."

Hear, hear! With an attitude like that, you WILL succeed Colorado. You will.

Freeing the Grid is produced annually by NNEC in partnership with Vote Solar, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), the Solar Alliance and the North Carolina Solar Center. Download the full report at: www.freeingthegrid.org

Originally published at Ecocentric.