The State of Solar

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The Light of Hope

For over a decade now, like-minded people all over the US have been working together, in government and non-government forms, to promote an eco-friendly, energy-independent, healthy green infrastructure; and doing so in a way that boosts the economy. This infrastructure represents our dreams for a vibrant, clean, and economically prosperous future. As of 2018, solar has injected 17 billion dollars into the US economy1. The renewable energy sector has incorporated nearly 3 million jobs in the US, as of 2016. The solar industry alone creating 250,271 jobs based on the National Solar Jobs Census 2017, a 2017 study done by The Solar Foundation2.

The intention of this blog is to highlight some of the policies that have shaped and continue to shape solar nationally and in individual States.

Almost a Tale of Woe: Federal Tariffs

Around this time last year, US solar manufacturers raised the concern that foreign importation of solar panels was hurting the US economy. US manufacturers SolarWorld and Suniva filed a petition to the US International Trade Commission (ITC) for a tax on foreign solar module manufacturers.

To the chagrin of many in the solar industry, a new solar tariff was adopted by the ITC, called the Section 201 Solar Tariffs. This tariff levied taxes on imported solar modules, specifically focusing on China (but many other countries were included in the tariff, including Canada and Mexico). Many believed this tariff would cripple the solar industry, as many solar components are made outside the US. While the US solar industry did feel a pinch, it was far from the calamity many had forecasted. In the true American spirit, solar remained resilient and defiant!

Federal Taxes & Incentives

In addition to tariffs, the solar industry’s incentives have also changed and continue to do so. In 2005, a bill passed by Congress introduced the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) – (yes, there are really two different solar acryons with ITC) – granting home and business owners a tax credit when purchasing their systems, worth 30% of the total solar system cost. The credit is scheduled to decrease incrementally, starting with a 4% drop in 2020, and 4% again the following year, with a 22% credit in 20213. This  incremental decrease was designed to help alleviate previous fears of a precipitative drop off.

The ITC has been a major incentive for those looking to go solar, driving the solar industry by lowering the overall cost of solar. And despite the scheduled decreases and eventual phase out of the program, experts remain optimistic that the posterior ITC solar industry will continue to thrive.

Let’s see what some states are doing to attain the robust goals of a brighter, cleaner future.

Massachusetts
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Massachusetts has been the pioneer of the Northeast when it comes to its solar programs and policies, first laying the groundwork for net metering, which would become the most widely adopted policy among national utilities for solar4. Due to aggressive goals set (and surpassed) by Governor Deval Patrick in 2009, Massachusetts became the hotspot of lucrative and competitive solar incentives and programs, such as the Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC)  program, Residential Solar Tax Credit, Solar Property Tax Exemption, Solar Rebates, Solarize Mass, the Mass Solar Loan program and the brand new SMART program (among others). Please note, these MA State Incentives are also applicable in conjunction to receiving the aforementioned 30% Federal Tax Credit!

Vermont

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Vermont has been the leader nationally having the highest employment numbers in the efficiency and renewables sector, with more than 10,000 people working in clean energy. They also rank within the top three states (along with California and Massachusetts) for robust state policies for energy savings. In 2014, Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, successfully attained 100% renewable electricity. And in 2015, Vermont pushed a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) that calls for 75% renewable energy by 20325. As of 2017, Vermont has installed 163.2 megawatts of solar, between utility-scale and small-scale projects6.

California

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California has a brilliant renewable energy portfolio dating back to the early 2000s. California has been leading the US in combined energy generation from solar, geothermal, and biomass energy, due to its size and populace7. Their most recent and impressive goal is a policy they passed to install solar on 50% of new homes by 20208. The policy is expected to lower costs not only for new homeowners but also for existing homes and buildings.

New Jersey

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We cannot talk about solar in the US without mentioning New Jersey. NJ has been leading East coast states in the promotion of solar adoption. The MA SREC program was directly modeled from NJ. For solar energy electricity production, NJ was the fifth largest producer in 2017, accounting for almost 75% of the state’s renewable electricity generation9. Considered the leader in the US clean energy economy, NJ signed a clean energy bill in 2018 mandating 50% of renewable energy by 203010. Among the slew of reform goals, this bill establishes a community solar program that will allow all residents (homeowners and non-homeowners alike) to benefit from solar energy!

Other States

States like Texas, Idaho, and Nebraska, due to the wide expanse of land and fewer people per square foot, have capitalized on the space to create massive renewable energy plants ranging mostly from wind and hydroelectric power. Washington D.C. is also paving the way in the US for its energy efficiency goals. They recently passed a law that requires all of the electricity in DC to come from energy sources such as wind and solar by 203211. The law also set ambitious new goals and requirements for transitioning all major transport vehicles in DC to electric. This has been considered to be the most “ambitious clean energy law in the nation”.

In conclusion, progress is made by simple, consistent steps. Yes, more work and more policy advocacy is needed in the renewable energy sector, but let’s take a minute and appreciate all the hard work that has been done by so many to get us this far. We believe there is a bright future in energy. To learn more about what you can do to support the solar renewable energy industry, contact us at 617.564.3159.

Sources:

  1. https://www.thesolarfoundation.org/national/
  2. https://www.thesolarfoundation.org/solar-jobs-census/
  3. http://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program/detail/1235
  4. http://solarisworking.org/history-of-solar-in-massachusetts
  5. https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2017/04/Clean-Energy-Momentum-report.pdf
  6. https://www.eia.gov/state/print.php?sid=VT
  7. https://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.php?sid=CA
  8. https://www.solarpowerrocks.com/affordable-solar/california-will-require-solar-new-homes-2020-state
  9. https://www.eia.gov/state/index.php?sid=NJ
  10. https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562018/approved/20180523a_cleanEnergy.shtml
  11. https://www.utilitydive.com/news/dc-passes-most-ambitious-mandate-for-100-renewables-by-2032/544702/

Additional Sources

  1. https://www.mass.gov/service-details/renewable-energy-snapshot
  2. https://www.bcse.org/wp-content/uploads/2018-Sustainable-Energy-in-America-Factbook-Infographic.pdf
  3. https://www.eia.gov/state/index.php?sid=NJ
  4. https://www.energy.ca.gov/renewables/16-NSHP-01/



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