Not everyone realizes that the most impactful energy policies are created at the state level. They are able to leverage federal policies but also go further in creating local jobs, a more reliable grid, and anticipating and mitigating problems.
This is why state-level policy advocates like MOSEIA (which we discussed in detail recently) are so important. These advocacy groups influence state policy by providing a coordinated voice at the state and local level in the development of legislative, regulatory, and policy proceedings. They are critical in the fight for the future of affordable, renewable energy - and renewable energy is critical to efforts to provide safe, stable, and accessible power to consumers.
Renewable Portfolio Standards
One of the more important aspects of state policies are how they set Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which determine the percentage of a state’s power that will be created through renewable sources by a future date. As the National Conference of State Legislatures notes, “Roughly half of the growth in U.S. renewable energy generation since the beginning of the 2000's can be attributed to state renewable energy requirements.”
There are many benefits that stem from the creation of Renewable Portfolio Standards, including reduction in air and water pollution, local job creation, and increased grid stability. As the Department of Energy found, the growth in renewable energy spurred by RPS reduces greenhouse gas emissions and water use that result from the processing and consumption of fossil fuels. This has an important impact on the environment, but also on a state’s finances and consumer’s electric rates as well.
A major benefit of state policies that encourage the adoption of renewable energy is their impact on job creation. As the Solar Foundation found in their National Solar Jobs Census, “American solar jobs have increased 167% over the past decade,” and “in the five-year period between 2014 and 2019, solar employment increased 44%, five times faster than job growth in the overall U.S. economy.” Renewable energy efforts create local jobs and strengthen local economies.
Net Metering Laws
Another area in which state’s policies either benefit or hamper consumers is in legislation surrounding Net Metering - a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the excess electricity they produce and add back to the grid. There are currently efforts underway around the country to repeal or throttle back net metering laws, which constrain people from making a choice to invest in solar or wind energy.
As the Brookings Institute established in 2016, the boom in rooftop solar installations “represents nothing less than a breakthrough for urban sustainability — and the climate.” This has been enabled by reduced technology costs and also the ability of system owners to take advantage of net metering capabilities. In fact, they found that “Net metering… frequently benefits all ratepayers when all costs and benefits are accounted for.” Net metering policies contribute to the health of the grid and benefit all residents of the states that enact these policies.
However, net metering continues to come under attack by utility companies across the country, including in California, Illinois, and Missouri, where new legislation is attempting to institute a discriminatory tax on owners of solar energy systems. However, there is some success happening as well in states like Virginia, Florida, and Arkansas. We should be looking to these states as examples, because the bottom line is that state energy plans that drive good energy policy benefit everyone.
State-Level Energy Policies Benefit Everyone
We all benefit from the environmental impacts and job creation that renewable energy initiatives provide. As consumers of power, we benefit from the stability and structure that state-level energy policies reinforce. As citizens, we should encourage legislators and lobbying groups to work towards energy policies that benefit us all and mitigate the effects of problems like those that recently cost many Texans their power and security.
As Solar Design Studio, we are active in the MOSEIA, California Solar & Storage Association, and Kansas’ Clean Energy Business Network. We advocate for policies that further renewable energy and create more equitable and accessible power for everyone. We know that we create opportunity and value for our customers when we push for policies and incentives that favor renewable energy.
If you have a solar project in mind and would like to take advantage of our wide-ranging expertise and experience providing solar solutions, contact us today.