NREL analysts compare state solar policies to determine equation for success

Analysts at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have used statistical analyses to better understand why some state solar policies are more successful than others.
NREL analysts compare state solar policies to determine equation for success

The analyst’s findings, which also used case studies, indicate that while no standard formula for solar implementation exists, a combination of foundational policies and localised strategies can increase solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in any state.

In their report, entitled "The Effect of State Policy Suites on the Development of Solar Markets," NREL researchers examined a variety of policy- and non-policy-based factors that influenced state and local solar markets.

On the policy side, two factors strengthen a state's solar market in all contexts: interconnection, or policies that define the procedural requirements for connecting a PV system to the electricity grid; and net metering, or policies that enable the utility to compensate individual PV system owners though a simple billing mechanism.

Non-policy issues that have implications for a solar market, such as the amount of sunlight available for potential solar generation, community interest in renewable energy, and the cost of competing grid electricity, were examined in the context of different states and local communities.

The authors concluded that states that have matched their suite of best-practice policies to their unique context have excelled and that both the number of solar policies and the length of time the policies have been in place are important indicators of market success. Another distinguishing factor seems to be support for solar leasing and other increasingly popular third-party ownership models.

“We built quantitative evidence showing that, across the board, states with three or more market creation or market enabling policies have the most robust solar markets” said the report's coauthor Elizabeth Doris, a technical manager for Policy and Technical Assistance at NREL. “This study provides additional insight into how policies should be considered in light of non-policy factors to best support solar market development.”

The findings indicate that, while the age and composition of policy suites are important market foundations, solar policies are more effective when tailored to the economic and demographic background of the state.

The report also includes case studies to better understand states that experience lagging solar markets despite having similar best practice policies as states with thriving solar markets. A fact sheet, animated graphic, and other resources summarising the report's major findings are available at the NREL’s State and Local Government’s website.

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National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

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