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States make “significant strides” in adopting pro-renewable energy practices such as net metering and interconnection

A report on net metering and interconnection practices that could enable renewable energy adoption across the United States, has given top marks to California, Colorado, New Jersey and Oregon, but failing grades to Georgia, Idaho and Texas.

The 2009 edition of Freeing the Grid is a policy guide that grades states on their net metering and interconnection practices, which empower customers to use renewable energy to meet their power demands. This third edition finds that policies still vary widely, but that most states have made significant strides in adopting best practices which encourage market growth of renewable energy and job creation.

“Understanding these policies is critical because each provision in a state’s rules for net metering and interconnection has the potential to be a powerful incentive or a poison pill for the growth of renewables in that state,” explains Kyle Rabin of the Network for New Energy Choices (NNEC). This version collaborated with Vote Solar, Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), Solar Alliance and the North Carolina Solar Center.

In 2007, five states received a A on net metering, 8 received a B, 12 C, 6 D, 8 F and 12 received no grade. In 2009, there were 11 As, 16 B, 8 C, 6 D, 3 F and only 7 with no grade for net metering. While 27 states received a A or B grade for net metering standards (vs 13 in 2007), the report notes that 8 states (Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas) still do not have statewide net metering programmes.

For interconnection in 2007, there were no A grades, 1 B, 9 C, 8 D, 15 F and 18 no grade. In 2009, the report gives one A, 14 B, 6 C, 6 D, 14 F and 10 no grade for interconnection. In total, 15 states received a grade of A or B for their interconnection standards, “a significant improvement from only one state in 2007”, it notes. Virginia is the first and only state to receive an A for excellent interconnection rules.

The report also explores new and evolving state policies, such as third-party Power Purchase Agreements, community net metering and feed-in tariff incentive structures, which are designed to meet the changing needs of energy customers and the renewable energy market in the USA.

“Looking at how many of these states have moved from lackluster to stellar grades in just three years, it’s clear that there is a growing understanding of the benefits that these policies deliver,” says Adam Browning of Vote Solar. “Although we still have much room for improvement, this country is moving quickly toward a place where these once-obscure concepts - good net metering and interconnection standards - are becoming accepted best practices for supporting customer investment in renewable energy."

“Along with incentives and fair utility rate structures, these two policies form the backbone of our nation’s rooftop solar energy markets and the local jobs they create,” adds Jane Weissman of IREC. “If unnecessary hurdles are removed and customers are fairly compensated for delivering clean electricity to the grid, US homes and businesses can and do go solar.”

An effective net metering programme allows system size limits to cover large commercial and industrial customers’ loads and do not arbitrarily limit net metering as a percent of a utility’s peak demand, the report explains. It allows monthly carryover of excess electricity at the utility’s full retail rate and specifies that customer-sited generators retain all renewable energy credits for energy they produce.

Effective interconnection standards set fair fees that are proportional to a project’s size and cover all generators in order to close any state-federal jurisdictional gaps in standards. They screen applications by degree of complexity and adopt plug-and-play rules for residential-scale systems, ensure that policies are transparent and uniform, and prohibit requirements for extraneous devices.

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