What You Need to Know to Be Solar Ready

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 Administration revealed solar added 2,193 megawatts of capacity in 2013. Much of that added capacity came as the industry completed several large solar thermal plants in Arizona and California. More projects are on track for completion between 2014 and 2016. Power generation from solar technology is forecast to rise.
“As solar installation prices have decreased, we have seen installations increase since it is cheaper to utilize the technology,” said Chad Laurent, senior consultant with Meister Consultants Group, Inc.
Although solar energy is still just a small part of the United States’ electricity supply—0.2 p percent, many did not anticipate the demonstrated growth of solar use.  
“The increase has caught the attention of policymakers,” Laurent said. “For example, net metering has already reached state caps in many states causing states to re-evaluate sooner than expected.”
Net metering is an arrangement with a customer’s utility company that gives a customer credit for allowing use of their energy surplus. For example, if solar panels located on a customer’s roof generate more electricity than that consumer uses, the utility company tracks the credits and offsets the usage when the solar system is not producing.  Net metering policies are governed state by state and the topic is one, among many surrounding solar power generation. 
Policymakers will have an opportunity to hear from experts in the solar energy field during a policy academy at the CSG National/CSG West 2014 Annual Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, Aug. 13. The one-day policy academy will provide an overview of policies related to solar—specifically, net metering, the value of solar and feed-in-tariffs.
The U.S. Department of Energy awarded more than $12 million in grants through its SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge II to eight recipients; Mid-America-Regional Council was one of the recipients.
The Mid-America-Regional Council, or MARC, has formed regional and national partnerships with the charge to educate people and policymakers on solar technology and find ways to cut red tape and reduce “plug-in” costs. The council has partnered with The Council of State Governments to help with outreach to state policymakers.
 “We want to educate and work together with policymakers to eliminate barriers and streamline the process for solar technology,” said Georgia Nesselrode, director of local government services for MARC. The August policy Academy, Solar Ready II, is a result of that partnership.
“The Solar Ready II policy academy will allow policymakers a deeper dive into the particulars of solar,” said Nesselrode.
“We want policymakers to walk away with an understanding of the policies being discussed and how those policies can either encourage or discourage distributed generation,” said Laurent. “We want the conversation to be shaped around how policymakers can use different policies, laying out the goal of each policy to serve as a tool for policymakers to make decisions.”
The policy academy takes place Aug. 13, in Anchorage, Alaska, and is open to all CSG National/CSG West 2014 Annual Conference attendees.
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