The Environment America Research & Policy Center released a report this week naming the “Dazzling Dozen” states that are leading the way in solar energy policy for the country and providing examples of how other states can fall in line to help the country get 10 percent of its electricity from the sun by 2030.
“Those states possess strong policies that are enabling increasing numbers of homeowners, businesses, communities and utilities to go solar,” the report reads. “The pathway to a solar future laid out by the Dazzling Dozen is open to every state.”
Solar energy in the United States has seen wildly rapid expansion and Environment America predicts that the explosive growth will continue – at least in the states with progressive policies.
“Solar energy is on the rise,” the report reads. “America has more than three times as much solar photovoltaic capacity today as in 2010, and more than 10 times as much as in 2007.”
Solar accounted for nearly half of all new electricity generating capacity installed in the U.S. in the first three months of 2013.
While the Dazzling Dozen have a significant edge on the rest of the country because of strong, supportive energy policies, market conditions are also working to make solar more accessible.
The cost of an installed solar array dropped 27 percent in 2012 alone after falling 20 percent between the beginning of 2010 and the end of 2011. Those price drops are making solar more competitive and the technology could be a contender even in states without aggressive solar energy policies within a short period.
For now, though, policy counts. And the Dazzling Dozen have good solar policies. Eleven of the 12 have strong net metering policies, allowing customers to collect retail payments from their utility companies for any power their systems produce that flows back onto the grid. Eleven have statewide renewable energy portfolio standards requiring utility companies to get a specific percentage of its power from renewable sources. And 10 have hassle-free interconnection policies. Most also offer creative financing options for solar, such as property-assessed clean energy (PACE).
“State governments should set ambitious goals for solar energy and adopt policies to meet them,” according to the report. “They should also use their role as the primary regulators of electric utilities to encourage utility investments in solar energy, implement rate structures that maximize the benefits of solar energy to consumers, and support smart investments to move toward a more intelligent electric grid in which distributed sources of energy such as solar power play a larger role.”