IREC recognizes these four states for their clean energy policy decisions in 2018

solar state report card

After a colossal year of energy policy activity across the states, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) calls out some favorite 2018 success stories in its 2019 Clean Energy States Honor Roll, announced today. IREC is a 37-year-old national independent not-for-profit organization that works state by state to increase consumer access to clean renewable energy through fact-based policy leadership, quality workforce development and consumer empowerment.

Most Growth Potential

New Jersey. For creating a community solar pilot program and establishing one of the most aggressive energy storage goals in the country.

New Jersey has a long history of clean energy friendly policies, but the past few years saw a lag in progress, until recently. New Jersey is now poised to be a national leader for both community solar and energy storage development. A newly adopted community solar pilot program incorporates many established program best practices, as articulated in IREC’s Model Rules for Shared Renewable Energy Programs and National Shared Renewables Scorecard, and will expand access to all customers, including those with low and moderate incomes. The state’s new energy storage goal of 600 megawatts of energy storage by 2021 and 2,000 megawatts by 2030 sets a high bar for energy deployment, putting New Jersey alongside other leading states with energy storage targets, such as California, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon.

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Emerging Clean Energy Leader

Michigan. For tackling several core issues integral to realizing the potential of clean distributed energy resources (DERs), such as customer-sited solar, energy storage and wind.

Michigan is quickly emerging as a proactive leader on clean energy issues, as the state addresses several foundational regulatory policies impacting the deployment of clean energy on the grid, namely: interconnection rules, grid modernization and integrated distribution system planning. Tackling these core policies in anticipation of future growth sets a smooth glidepath for the state’s clean energy market to thrive, while also improving the customer experience and reducing costly and time-consuming processes for customers, developers and utilities alike. In addition, these regulatory efforts will help ensure the four cities in Michigan with established 100% renewable energy goals can accomplish these ambitious goals more affordably and efficiently (which benefits all Michiganders).

Most Charged for Storage

Nevada. For being among the first states in the country to formally address connecting distributed energy storage systems to the electric grid.

New regulations explicitly allow for and clarify how distributed energy storage systems will connect to the grid via updated interconnection standards. As DER penetrations grow and new technologies become available, these updated interconnection procedures (which align with IREC’s recommended practices) ensure more efficient and affordable deployment of clean DERs on the grid. In addition, Nevada joined the ranks of the few other states requiring utilities to proactively consider ways to optimize the benefits of DERs on the grid through a more comprehensive distribution system planning process.

Most Improved Transparency

South Carolina. For taking actions to improve utility transparency and reporting, which benefits both customers and developers.

South Carolina has seen considerable clean energy growth over the past few years due to favorable solar policies, but some of its recent growth has stalled due to interconnection backlogs. A November 2018 action by the state’s public service commission requires additional utility reporting measures aimed at improving transparency. This was an important step toward reducing the considerable delays in the interconnection queue in the state, while also preserving a positive path forward for future growth of customer-driven investments in clean energy technologies.

— Solar Builder magazine

How will the PG&E bankruptcy affect the California solar industry? Two quick takeaways

Bankruptcy law

California’s largest utility, PG&E, filed for bankruptcy last week after years of liability for its role in California’s wildfires piled to an estimated $30 billion in damage. How will this affect the momentum of distributed generation projects in solar’s leading state? We reached out to the California Solar & Storage Association to learn more, and here are the two broad strokes.

1. Breathe out. There shouldn’t be any major impact on the solar and storage market in PG&E territory. The programs that affect solar and storage customers operate under state law and will continue regardless of what happens with PG&E.

2. Except delays. Certain tasks could become more annoying / frustrating. Take SGIP for example. The funds are collected by a separate adder on utility bills and reserved under state law, so CALSSA doesn’t foresee any impact on the program. But, depending on what happens with staffing, there could be delays in documentation and incentive payments. The same scenario could play out for interconnection processing with extended timelines. Those are just possibilities to consider and not definites. Pre-bankruptcy, PG&E already had a sluggish process for commercial interconnection and SGIP, but its residential solar interconnection turnaround ranks among the quickest in the country.

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— Solar Builder magazine

How New York State’s ‘Green New Deal’ plans to be carbon-free by 2040

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced details for a Green New Deal plan that will lead New York state to a carbon-free by 2040 goal. Here’s how.

What’s already happened

During Governor Cuomo’s first two terms, New York banned fracking of natural gas, committed to phasing out coal power by 2020, mandated 50 percent renewable power by 2030, and established the U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the Paris Agreement. Under the Reforming the Energy Vision agenda, New York has held the largest renewable energy procurements in U.S. history, solar has increased nearly 1,500 percent, and offshore wind is poised to transform the State’s electricity supply to be cleaner and more sustainable.

Green New Deal Details

The Green New Deal will statutorily mandate New York’s power be 100 percent carbon-free by 2040, the most aggressive goal in the United States and five years ahead of a target recently adopted by California. The cornerstone of this new mandate is a significant increase of New York’s successful Clean Energy Standard mandate from 50 percent to 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030. This will require

• Quadrupling New York’s offshore wind target to 9,000 megawatts by 2035, up from 2,400 megawatts by 2030
• Doubling distributed solar deployment to 6,000 megawatts by 2025, up from 3,000 megawatts by 2023
• More than doubling new large-scale land-based wind and solar resources through the Clean Energy Standard
• Maximizing the contributions and potential of New York’s existing renewable resources
• Deploying 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030, up from 1,500 megawatts by 2025
Develop an Implementation Plan to Make New York Carbon Neutral

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The Green New Deal will create the State’s first statutory Climate Action Council, comprised of the heads of relevant State agencies and other workforce, environmental justice, and clean energy experts to develop a comprehensive plan to make New York carbon neutral by significantly and cost-effectively reducing emissions from all major sources, including electricity, transportation, buildings, industry, commercial activity, and agriculture.

The Climate Action Council will consider a range of possible options, including the feasibility of working with the U.S. Climate Alliance to create a new multistate emissions reduction program that covers all sectors of the economy, including transportation and industry, and exploring ways to leverage the successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to drive transformational investment in the clean energy economy and support a just transition.

The Green New Deal will also include an ambitious strategy to move New York’s statewide building stock to carbon neutrality. The agenda includes:

• Advancing legislative changes to strengthen building energy codes and establish appliance efficiency standards
• Directing State agencies to ensure that their facilities uphold the strongest energy efficiency and sustainability standards
• Developing a Net Zero Roadmap to chart a course to statewide carbon neutrality in buildings
A Multibillion Dollar Green New Deal Investment in the Clean Tech Economy that will Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Cuomo is announced $1.5 billion in competitive awards to support 20 large-scale solar, wind and energy storage projects across upstate New York. These investments will add over 1,650 megawatts of capacity and generate over 3,800,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy annually. Combined with the renewable energy projects previously announced under the Clean Energy Standard, New York has now awarded more than $2.9 billion to 46 projects statewide, enough to power over one million households.

These new investments build upon a $250 million commitment to electric vehicle infrastructure by the New York Power Authority’s EVolve program, $3.5 billion in private investment in distributed solar driven by NYSERDA’s NY-Sun program, and NY Green Bank transactions mobilizing nearly $1.75 billion in private capital for clean energy projects.

Plan for Underserved Communities

The Green New Deal will help historically underserved communities prepare for a clean energy future and adapt to climate change by:

• Giving communities a seat at the table by codifying the Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group into law and incorporating it into the planning process for the Green New Deal’s implementation.
• Directing the State’s low-income energy task force to identify reforms to achieve greater impact of the public energy funds expended each year in order to increase the effect of funds and initiatives that target energy affordability to underserved communities.
• Directing each of the State’s ten Regional Economic Development Councils to develop an environmental justice strategy for their region.

Finance a Property Tax Compensation Fund to Help Communities Transition to the Clean Energy Economy: Governor Cuomo is introducing legislation to finance the State’s $70 million Property Tax Compensation Fund to continue helping communities directly affected by the transition away from dirty and obsolete energy industries and toward the new clean energy economy. Specifically, this funding will protect communities impacted by the retirement of conventional power generation facilities.

Protect Labor Rights: To ensure creation of high-quality clean energy jobs, large-scale renewable energy projects supported by the Green New Deal will require prevailing wage, and the State’s offshore wind projects will be supported by a requirement for a Project Labor Agreement.

Develop the Clean Tech Workforce: To prepare New York’s workforce for the transition, New York State will take new steps to support workforce development, including establishing a New York State Advisory Council on Offshore Wind Economic and Workforce Development, as well as investing in an offshore wind training center that will provide New Yorkers with the skills and safety training required to construct this clean energy technology in New York.

— Solar Builder magazine

Florida Power & Light will install ’30 million solar panels’ by 2030 — how does this stack up in the Southeast?

florida solar panels

Central Florida power generation farm’s solar panels point toward the early morning sun. The panels are mounted on moving racks, that follow the sun, maximizing solar collection capabilities.

Florida Power & Light Company is the largest energy company in the United States as measured by retail electricity produced and sold, serving more than five million customer accounts or an estimated 10 million+ people across the state of Florida. The investor-owned utility announced plans to install 30 million solar panels in Florida by 2030 and has secured solar sites throughout the state to do so.

FPL and its sister company, NextEra Energy Resources, say they are already the world’s largest producer of renewable energy from the wind and sun and, when this plan is completed, they expect to be the largest utility owner and operator of solar in America. But an analysis by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy using the metric of solar watts per customer frames the utility’s position differently. From the most recent Solar_Southeast_Report_2017:

The future of solar is bright across most of the Southeast. Solar will more than double on average, driven by utilities like Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric. Each of these Florida utilities announced solar expansion plans in 2017 that will propel them toward the top of the list in the coming years.

However, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Santee Cooper, and Seminole Electric Cooperative are not forecast to add solar at a significant pace. Florida Power & Light (owned by NextEra) plans additional solar, but at a slower pace than rival Florida utilities. These utilities operate in a public policy vacuum and the slow pace of solar reflects outdated thinking within the utilities’ management.

southern alliance for clean energy

Does this “30-by-30” plan to install “more than 30 million solar panels by 2030,” change that assessment? It certainly sounds like a big bump, but using the number of panels is an unclear way to quantify a solar energy production goal. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, put it into context:

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“As with any announcement, the devil is in the details. A commitment to 30 million solar panels does not clearly indicate the amount of power that will be delivered to Florida customers, but we project it will likely double their current stated goal of approximately 4,000 MW. While this is a positive jump in solar development, it’s important to note this will not make FPL a leader in solar watts per customer based on their size in the Southeast or the country. Solar growth is exploding across our region, and we continue to support good policies and actions that maximize Florida’s tremendous solar resource potential.”

— Solar Builder magazine

New York is doubling its solar goal to 6 GW installed by 2025

new york solar projects

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state is doubling the NY Sun solar goal to 6 GW by 2025, extending the state’s existing incentive program and launching a new round of large-scale solar awards. This all lines up with the Million Solar Strong New York campaign launched by Vote Solar and a coalition of industry, environmental, clean energy advocacy partners that called on lawmakers to establish a goal of 1 million solar-powered homes across New York by 2023.

“Achieving an equitable clean energy economy will only happen when all New Yorkers, including low-income families and disadvantaged communities, benefit from the clean energy transition, and we will continue pushing lawmakers and working with allies on the frontlines of this movement to ensure that the transition to clean energy serves all New Yorkers,” said Sean Garren, Senior Northeast Director at Vote Solar.

This plan to double the NY Sun goal and extend the incentive program will provide much needed certainty for the distributed solar market. The announcement of 16 new large-scale solar awards builds on the 22 solar projects selected last spring.

“Together, these groundbreaking investments in solar energy will create thousands of jobs, generate billions of dollars in investment, and bring clean and affordable energy to the residents of New York state,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “We look forward to working with the Governor’s Office and the Legislature to bring New Yorkers all the benefits that solar has to offer.”

— Solar Builder magazine