Last year 47 states and Washington, DC, took action on solar power, according to the NC Clean Energy Technology Center’s (NCCETC’s) The 50 States of Solar Report. The report found states were more active in solar policy actions in 2016, undertaking 212 such actions compared to the 175 actions undertaken in 2015. It also found that 79 percent of requests to increase residential fixed charges were not approved or only partially approved.
“Overall, we saw an increase in solar policy action from 2015 to 2016,” explained Autumn Proudlove, lead author of the report and senior policy analyst at NCCETC. “Notably, states considered more specific changes to net metering policies in 2016 and undertook fewer studies related to net metering. Many of these states have already conducted studies by now and are ready to take action.”
In 2016 the report found that in 35 states utilities made requests to increase monthly fixed charges on all residential customers. Another 28 states considered or made changes to net metering policies. The report also found that 13 states took action on community solar.
The report observed that 2016 was a record year for the solar industry in terms of growth. It called it all the more impressive because of policy uncertainty in many states. Utilities continued to attack net-metering provisions as they have in Arizona and Nevada. In those states, rapid changes quickly halted growth in rooftop solar, but now policymakers and legislators are rethinking some changes. Also in 2016, utility commissions saw more requests for residential fixed charge increases than residential demand charges. In fact, the report stated there were half as many proposals for demand charges in 2016 compared to 2015.
Other notable solar policy actions include Florida where voters and solar advocates, including the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), successfully fought back against the controversial Amendment 1. The amendment would have made it almost impossible for solar installers to work there. Voters also approved Amendment 4, which created a solar tax break in the state. Meanwhile, in Colorado Xcel Energy had proposed a grid-use charge for solar homeowners but that was dropped in a settlement that favored time-of-use rates instead.
“2016 was a very busy year for policymakers and those of us tasked with staying on top of their activity,” noted Brian Lips, Energy Policy Project Coordinator at NCCETC. “With several state solar markets hanging in the balance, 2017 is looking like it will be another exciting year.”
Indeed, lawmakers are already proposing new pieces of legislation in 2017. Some decidedly anti-solar, as in Wyoming where lawmakers want to impose fines on utilities for not using fossil fuels. While others are decidedly pro-solar and renewable, as in Massachusetts where lawmakers introduced legislation that would move the state toward 100 percent renewable energy faster than in any other state.Tweet