The solar energy industry ended 2015 on a high note with the approval of the Clean Power Plan, the successful international climate agreement at COP 21, and the extension of the solar investment tax credit (ITC). However, alongside federal policy, state policies can make or break solar energy. In particular, net metering is a policy that several states saw changes to in 2015.
Net metering allows solar customers to be credited for the electricity they add to the grid and only pay for their net electricity consumption. Specific rates vary state-by-state based on laws and various regulatory decisions; however, across the board, net metering encourages consumers to go solar with the promise of future savings on electric bills.
A new “report card” by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and Vote Solar gave each of the 50 states a grade based on their net metering policies. These grades were based on a number of factors, including the number of net metering-eligible technologies, how many sectors and utilities net metering was applicable to, the limits on systems and aggregate capacity, who owned renewable energy credits, whether meter aggregation was allowed, and, finally, the credit to customers for net excess generation.
So, based on these criteria, which states were still going strong with net metering in 2015 and which states were looking for a break? Good news for our Sol Systems customers and partners most of the states we operate in, and others with solar carve outs, were A-OK. Massachusetts, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, D.C, California, Arizona, and New Jersey were all top of the class, and they were not alone. Overall, 18 states met the IREC’s criteria and got ‘A’s, and Indiana, Rhode Island, and New Mexico were alongside 12 other states who finished with a ‘B’ due to IREC’s perceived room for improvement in a couple of the criteria areas.
However, not every state we work in finished top of the class. Virginia finished 2015 with a ‘C’ average due to high customer-stand-by charges for systems with a capacity greater than 10kW and a need for better safe harbor provisions. Virginia was not alone in the ‘C’ range; it was joined by North Carolina and 3 other states. However, while Virginia may not have done well in 2015, they may be looking to improve things in 2016. Current Virginia House Bill 1286, if passed, would lift the current net metering cap, authorize community net metering, allow for power purchase agreements, and expand “agriculture net metering”, allowing energy generation to be applied to multiple meters.
Overall, more than 2/3 of states had ‘A’s or ‘B’s in 2015, and six states improved their net metering policies, showing an overall positive trend for 2015. But, there were also some problem children in the class. There were 13 below average states, 3 ‘D’ states, and 10 ‘F’ states, meaning there were no net metering policies in place at all. Hawaii and Nevada, once all-stars in the net metering game, dropped to ‘F’s in 2015.
ABOUT SOL SYSTEMS
Sol Systems is a solar energy finance and investment firm. The company has facilitated financing for over 400MW of solar projects on behalf of Fortune 100 corporations, insurance companies, utilities, banks, family offices, and individuals. Sol Systems provides secure, sustainable investment opportunities to investor clients, and sophisticated project financing solutions to developers. The company’s tailored financial services include tax structured investments, project acquisition, and SREC portfolio management. Inc. Magazine named Sol Systems on its annual Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies for a third consecutive year. For more information, please visit www.solsystems.com.