The states with the greatest amounts of solar power per person are those that are seeing the steepest opposition from utilities. For instance, Nevada, which ranked first among states for solar power per person—it had three solar panels installed for every two residents by the end of 2015—eliminated net metering at the end of the year thanks to utilities’ efforts.
The new Lighting the Way Four report from Environment America found that in 2015 Nevada led the country in solar per capita followed by Hawaii, California, Arizona, North Carolina, New Jersey, Vermont, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Colorado. The 10 leading solar states have a third of the nation’s population but about 88 percent of the nation’s solar capacity, according to the report.
The report also showed that though all the states in 2015’s top 10 were in 2014’s top 10 list as well, they’ve shifted places somewhat. Hawaii, for instance, topped the list in 2014, followed by Arizona, which was fourth in the most recent rankings.
Following the elimination of net metering in Nevada rooftop solar installations declined 93 percent. “Before the solar rate hike, sunny Nevada rightfully led the nation in solar installations and solar jobs per capita—growing our economy while protecting our environment,” said Chandler Sherman, Deputy Campaign Manager of Bring Back Solar, the group organized to restore net metering to Nevada. “That's why the people of Nevada overwhelmingly support restoring net metering, so Nevadans once again have the freedom to power our communities with affordable, clean energy.”
It’s a common theme. As solar becomes more prevalent in leading states utilities are increasing their efforts to suppress rooftop solar. “The more solar grows, the more big utilities try to stop it,” said Bret Fanshaw, Solar Program coordinator at Environment America and a co-author of the report. “Even in the face of strong public support for pollution-free energy, major utilities are working across the country to undermine the policies that have helped states become solar leaders.”
However, there’s still light for the solar industry. ”As we've seen in many states, California's big utilities proposed to cut net metering credit and add major new fees for customers who want to go solar," said Susannah Churchill, West Coast Regional Director for Vote Solar. "After careful consideration of both the facts and input from diverse stakeholders, California regulators voted to preserve solar – standing strong for progress, for innovation, and for the public interest.”