Interest in using solar energy to power homes continues to skyrocket and rural electric cooperatives are taking notice. Rural co-ops--nonprofit consumer-owned utilities--are responding to demands from their members looking to invest in community solar projects. Utilities are developing these programs, which allow customers to pay for the cost of one or more panels in exchange for a credit on their bill based on the energy the panels produce. This eCademy session features experts discussing the national trend of community solar programs and specific examples to help state policymakers better understand this emerging trend.

Interest in using solar energy to power homes continues to skyrocket and rural electric cooperatives are taking notice. Rural co-ops --nonprofit consumer-owned utilities-- are responding to demands from their members looking to invest in community solar projects. Utilities are developing these programs, which allow customers to pay for the cost of one or more panels in exchange for...

Federal and state tax credits coupled with state policies like net metering were intended to make residential solar installations more affordable for consumers and help states meet their state renewable portfolio standards. Their intent seems to have worked—residential rooftop solar is growing but the growth looks different than state leaders anticipated. Instead of homeowners making the upfront purchase of rooftop solar, an increasing number of consumers are choosing to enter third-party leasing contracts with solar leasing companies. In a third-party lease, a homeowner pays to have the solar leasing company finance, permit, install and maintain the system. The contract is attractive to homeowners because solar is installed without the large upfront costs and their solar utility rate can be set if the rate increased in the future.

The Solar Foundation, an independent nonprofit with a mission to increase understating of solar energy, recently published its annual National Solar Jobs Census 2014 report.  The report found the U.S. solar industry created jobs at a rate nearly 20 times higher than the average employment growth for a second consecutive year.

Distributed generation—mainly rooftop solar—is transforming the way electricity is generated, transmitted and distributed. In 2015, state lawmakers will likely continue debates about the most appropriate way to balance consumer demand for distributed generation while recognizing the real and substantial fixed and variable costs incurred by electric utilities and the potential impact of these policies on nonsolar consumers. This CSG eCademy session features perspectives from the electric power industry and a former utility ratepayer consumer advocate. Panelists share their thoughts on how to balance the challenges and opportunities the growth of distributed generation has brought to the forefront and how to address consumer concerns.

CSG South

Energy policies in Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) member states are undergoing substantial changes as installations of distributed generation systems, such as rooftop solar panels and other small-scale renewable energy technologies, continue to expand. This expansion has been encouraged by state and federal tax credits, which have made renewable energy technology, especially solar energy technology, increasingly affordable. Further encouraging the installation of distributed generation technologies is the availability of net metering programs, whereby customers who generate some of their own electricity are able to offset their electricity bills by selling their excess power back to a utility provider. Net metering allows customers a chance to recoup the high initial cost of installing distributed generation systems, and may provide a positive return on investment.

Increases in the use of distributed generation systems by consumers have led to an increase in demand for utilities to offer net metering. Of the 15 states represented by the SLC, 11 have statewide net metering policies, while Texas has a voluntary policy. Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee do not yet have net metering policies in place. This SLC Regional Resource reviews the concept of net metering and analyzes the status and nature of net metering legislation and trends in SLC member states.

This act enacts the Green Tariff Shared Renewables program. It requires a participating utility, defined as an electrical corporation with 100,000 or more customers in California, to file with the commission an application requesting approval of a green tariff shared renewables program to implement a program enabling ratepayers to participate directly in offsite electrical generation facilities that use eligible renewable energy resources, consistent with certain legislative findings and statements of intent. The act requires the commission to issue a decision concerning the participating utility’s application, determining whether to approve or disapprove the application, with or without modifications. It also requires the commission, after notice and opportunity for public comment, to approve the application if the commission determines that the proposed program is reasonable and consistent with the legislative findings and statements of intent.

CSG Energy and Environment

Recognizing the need to diversify energy portfolios and desire to decrease CO2 emissions, 29 States, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and 9 states have implemented Renewable Portfolio Goals.  A visual representation of current state RPSs is displayed by the DSIRE* ...

This session provided an overview of solar technology and policy. Panelists discussed current markets and trends, the value of solar technology, and benefits and barriers to this technology. Speakers explored how solar technology fits into net metering and discussed the future for solar technology.

As states continue to diversify their energy portfolios, renewable energy sources—like solar technology—will play an increasing role.
A recent report by the U.S. Energy Information...

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