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Community solar industry launches ‘Vision 2030’ to accelerate democratisation of solar energy in the USA

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The Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) last week unveiled its 2030 Vision to provide at least 10 million people in America - households, small and large businesses, schools, religious institutions, and hospitals - access to community solar by 2030.
Community solar industry launches ‘Vision 2030’ to accelerate democratisation of solar energy in the USA
Courtesy of NREL.

This is equivalent to 30 GW of community solar capacity installed, a 500 percent increase from current capacity.

Community solar projects are smaller scale installations typically built on landfills, former industrial sites, or private parcels of farmland. Customers can sign up as subscribers, and, in turn, receive credits on their electricity bills based on their share of the project’s generation. It is a proven solution for enabling broader clean energy access among families and small businesses, regardless of whether they rent or own their property.

The industry has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade, increasing capacity by over 3,000 percent since 2015 to reach nearly 5 GW of installed capacity today. With new policies having recently passed in California and New Mexico, there are now 22 states with some form of competitive community solar policy.

“The next decade promises to be the most transformational period for our electric grid in its history” said Jeff Cramer, CEO of CCSA. “We need to take this moment to rethink the outdated grid of the past and adopt policies and programs that will democratise our energy system so everyone can benefit from the transition to clean energy. Community solar’s innovative business model is proven to increase access to solar to more households and businesses while also harnessing private capital to build public infrastructure to solve some of our biggest energy policy challenges. With state programs rapidly opening and expanding, along with the market certainty provided by federal legislation, community solar is poised to become a meaningful part of the U.S. energy mix with its next stage of growth.”

Community solar, along with other smaller scale generation resources that are located closer to where energy is consumed, make the electric grid more resilient and less expensive, especially when paired with battery storage. Research conducted in October 2021 by advanced modeling experts Vibrant Clean Energy, shows that a clean electric grid that better leverages smaller scale solar resources and storage alongside continued growth of large-scale renewables and transmission can save our grid tens of billions of dollars. The study found that smaller scale resources on the distribution system help optimise supply and demand and prevent the need to overbuild the bulk-power system to accommodate the times of year when the system is most stressed, like on hot summer nights. 

“At its core, CCSA’s new goal is a clarion call to democratise our energy system” added Mr Cramer. “Democratising means unleashing the free market, leveraging private capital, and cutting red tape to give small power producers more access to our electric grid and more customers the freedom to support solar energy. And, finally, it means harnessing innovative policies and technologies - like community solar + storage - so everyone can benefit from the clean energy transformation.”

To achieve CCSA’s Vision 2030 goal, the organisation has outlined five key actions that must be executed:

Open at least 10 new state community solar programmes. Ten or more states must pass policies that enable competitive community solar so more customers in more states have the option to access local, reliable, and affordable solar power.

Double down to ensure at least 5 percent of equivalent total electric retail sales come from community solar to meet customer demand and modeled grid potential. Advanced grid modeling shows we must significantly grow community solar capacity in new and existing states to achieve our climate goals at the lowest cost, and to fulfill the pent up customer demand across the country for local, clean energy.

Ensure energy bill savings are readily accessible to low- and moderate-income customers and that businesses have the option to support clean, locally generated solar energy. These customers have largely been ignored and left out of the clean energy transition. Providing them with access to affordable, local community solar is paramount to ultimately reaching the nation’s climate and policy goals in the most equitable way.

Partner with state utility commissions and utilities to optimise the value distributed energy resources bring to the grid and ensure these technologies, specifically community solar, can interconnect quickly and at-scale. CCSA and its stakeholders must work with state regulatory agencies to achieve predictability of interconnection processes and costs, and support utility innovation in grid planning and modernisation.

Build on a common vision and continue to expand the community solar coalition. The industry must continue to grow its coalitions within state and national campaigns, develop deeper partnerships with unlikely allies, develop a more robust grassroots and grasstops advocacy network, and where effective, partner with other distributed energy resource providers to educate stakeholders on the benefits of distributed energy.

For additional information:

Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA)

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