This year, 23 states received top grades for good interconnection practices, up from 20 in 2010, according to the 2011 edition of “Freeing the Grid,” a policy guide that grades all 50 states on net metering and interconnection procedures.
Those states include Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, Utah and New Jersey, according to the report, which is in its fifth year of publication.
In some cases, the interconnection process is so lengthy, arduous and/or expensive that it thwarts the development of clean energy altogether, according to a joint statement from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, the Network for New Energy Choices, the Vote Solar Initiative and the North Carolina Solar Center. In recent years, many states have been working to streamline interconnection.
The report shows that states nationwide are continuing to embrace best practices and drive further improvements in these core renewable energy policies, the statement added.
Among the report’s highlights, in 2011, 17 states, including Colorado, Arizona, Delaware, California, New Jersey and Oregon, received top “A” grades for their net metering policies, up from 15 in 2010 and five in 2007, according to the statement. Net metering best practices have evolved to include virtual net metering, meter aggregation and other community solar models that allow consumers to come together and take advantage of economies of scale when investing in clean energy.
“The age of grid parity is upon us – in some places in the country, you can generate your own electricity with solar and wind more cheaply than buying dirty power from your utility,” Kyle Rabin, executive director of NNEC, said in the statement. “It’s truly the democratization of energy, but it only works if you have access to the plug and if you get fair credit for generation. Poor interconnection and net metering policies can stand in the way of building a sustainable, growth industry.”
According to the report, in evaluating statewide interconnection and net metering programs, the report’s authors developed an index that awards points for elements that promote participation, expand renewable energy generation, or otherwise advance the goals sought by net metering. The index also issues demerits for program components that discourage participation or limit renewable energy generation.
Massachusetts and Utah received top “A” grades in both policy categories for the second year in a row, according to the statement. They are joined by Delaware, which improved its interconnection practices that garnered an “F” last year, the statement added.
According to a separate statement from Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, the state adopted a net metering law with bipartisan support in 2010, Senate Bill 267, that makes it easier for utility customers to sell excess renewable energy to the grid.
“Integrating more clean energy into the grid puts more people to work, supports capital investment, and promotes a healthier environment,” Markell said in the statement.
According to the organization’s joint statement, numerous states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – received an “A” in one category and a “B” in the other, making them strong distributed renewable energy markets that have continued room for improvement.
Meanwhile, Indiana was the most improved state, going from a “D” in net metering and a “C” in interconnection in 2010 to “Bs” in both categories this year.
Regarding net metering, for instance, the report recommended that Indiana remove system size limitations to allow customers to meet all on-site energy needs, to increase capacity to at least 5% of a utility’s peak demand and to expand net metering to all utilities.
Laurel Varnado, policy analyst with the North Carolina Solar Center, said in the statement that the report is produced each year to reflect current best practices and give state leaders a clear blueprint for renewable energy success.