Solar power is clean, affordable and popular with the American people. The amount of solar energy currently installed in the U.S. can power one in 14 American homes; that amount is expected to triple within the next five years.
The growth of American solar energy in the past decade has been the result of smart solar-friendly state policies like net metering and tax incentives for solar infrastructure, putting clean energy within financial reach of millions more Americans. The recent appointment of officials favored by electric utilities and fossil fuel interests to key positions within the Department of Energy and other federal agencies makes the preservation of strong solar policies in the states more important than ever.
In 2017, utilities continue to chip away at key state policies that put rooftop solar on the map in the United States, making it harder for Americans to invest in clean energy.
This report documents 20 fossil fuel-backed groups and electric utilities running some of the nation’s most aggressive campaigns to slow the growth of solar energy in 12 states, including eight attempts to reduce net metering benefits and seven attempts to create demand charges for customers with solar power. Citizens and policy-makers must be aware of the tools that utilities are using to undermine solar energy across America and redouble their commitment to strong policies that move the nation toward a clean energy future.
A national network of utility interest groups and fossil fuel-backed think tanks has provided the funding, model legislation and political cover to discourage the growth of rooftop solar power.
At the state level, electric utilities have used the support provided by national anti-solar interests, as well as their own ample resources, to attack key solar energy policies.
As of mid-2017, there were at least 90 ongoing policy actions in U.S. states with the potential to affect the growth of rooftop generation, such as limits on net metering or new utility fees that make solar power less affordable.
State decision-makers should resist utility and fossil fuel industry influence, and reject policies such as
- Elimination of, restrictions on, or unfair caps on net metering;
- Discriminatory surcharges or tariffs for solar customers;
- Utility rate designs that discourage solar adoption;
- Unnecessary regulatory burdens on solar energy; and
- Rollbacks of renewable electricity standards.
In addition, state leaders should embrace ambitious goals for solar energy and adopt policies that will help meet them, including:
- Considering the benefits of distributed solar energy to the grid, to ratepayers and to society in any rate making or policy decisions about solar energy;
- Implementing strong net metering and interconnection standards, which enable many customers to meet their own electricity needs with solar power;
- Encouraging community shared solar projects and virtual net metering, which can expand solar access to more customers;
- Enacting or expanding solar or distributed renewable carve-outs and renewable electricity standards;
- Enabling financing mechanisms to allow for greater solar access to businesses and residents;
- Allowing companies other than utilities to sell or lease solar to residents and businesses; and
- Making smart investments to move toward a more intelligent electric grid that will enable distributed sources of energy such as solar power to play a larger role.
Policymakers should also uphold our country’s commitment to reduce carbon pollution. Solar power will play a major role in any strategy to reduce global warming pollution and the carbon footprint of the energy we generate and consume.