Solar Power Rocks (SPR) is one of our favorite sites — a comprehensive resource of state and national solar policy, incentives and financial estimates. Its super cool 2020 State Solar Power Rankings Report is now availabile and the main takeaway to me is that while residential solar hit a record high in 2019, there is still a ton of work to do, policy-wise, across the country.
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The Report is an interactive data visualization that compare states side-by-side across a range of criteria used in the ranking process. SPR staff also calculates example return-on-investment numbers for the average home solar installation in each state. The calculations are based on household electricity usage data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and solar production and cost data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, installers, and industry sources.
Top and bottom states this year
The Report assesses the 50 states and Washington D.C. based on factors likely to result in robust growth in the residential solar industry. For 2020, the top 5 solar states are Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Maryland. The bottom five states are North Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Oklahoma (51st).
SPR staff grade the states on 10 factors, including new criteria for annual insolation and low-income or community solar programs. For 2020, an updated weighting mechanism places greater importance on strong net metering policy.
Net metering still hugely important
2019 saw wins for net metering in such strange places as Georgia, Maine, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Those are states where net metering was either preserved or reinstated. Michigan may be the next place to reinstate net metering after it was lost, with bills introduced into the state legislature last year that may get full hearings this year. Louisiana and Kentucky on the other hand finally killed net metering for good. Arkansas also looks on its way to doing so.
“Access to full retail rates for net metering is strongly correlated to thriving home solar markets. We’re closely following the impact of enhanced programs in some of the top states we identified in 2020,” said Dan Hahn, SPR’s founder. “Net metering battles between well-connected utility companies, state legislative bodies and state public utility commissions threaten to erode the potential for us all to participate in a clean energy future.”
Two easy wins
While net metering turns into a contentious political battle, there are other policy avenues that would seem to be bipartisan and wins for everyone, such as low-income solar programs, which were incorporated into the rankings for the first time. Only 12 states rate out in the green (three of which for being N/A) and all of the rest get deep red F’s for having no such programs. Smh. This and the passing a property tax exemption (18 states don’t have it) seem like the easiest wins for states interested in boosting their grades and access to lower electricity bills for all residents.