NREL Conduit Blog

The NREL Conduit Blog discusses research relevant to state, local, and tribal governments. Contributing authors provide posts related to events, policy analysis, and decision support outcomes to inform the market in a credible and timely fashion.

NREL Guide Prepares Jurisdictions for Energy-Saving Building Stock Analyses

Feb. 7, 2020 by Laura Beshilas

This blog post covers a recent report from NREL on how jurisdictions that aim to reduce building emissions and increase energy efficiency can prepare for a building stock analysis.

The Solar Energy Trifecta: Solar + Storage + Net Metering

Feb. 12, 2018 by Benjamin Mow

Pairing solar-plus-storage with net metering has received minimal policy attention to-date because energy storage has, until recently, seen limited deployment. While this policy question may seem obscure, it is starting to pop up in other states as pairing energy storage with solar energy systems becomes more economical.

Back to Basics: Unraveling How Distributed Generation is Compensated and Why It's Important

Nov. 28, 2017 by Alexandra Aznar

Amid the surge of recent net-metering evaluations and proposed program changes at the state level (e.g. Nevada, Utah, New York), it can be useful to step back and consider some fundamental issues at play. What is net metering?—seems like such an easy question to answer, but there is a surprising amount of diverse terminology and parlance surrounding this concept.

Solar-Ready Building Design: A Summary of Technical Considerations

Sept. 22, 2017 by Alison Holm

We are seeing rapid transformation in the rooftop solar market with falling costs and increased deployment, but these changes don’t mean that every new building will suddenly be outfitted with a solar energy system tomorrow, or next week, or even next year. However, there are building design options that can be leveraged today in order to take advantage of potential solar installations in the future.

Solar-ready building design, as the name suggests, refers to designing and constructing a building in a way that facilitates and optimizes the installation of a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system at some point after the building has been constructed. Solar-ready design can make future PV system installation more cost-effective by reducing the need for infrastructure upgrades, ensuring solar technical feasibility, and planning for PV system optimization. Solar-ready design is not a new concept—several states and municipalities, including California and Tucson, Arizona, have already started including solar-ready design mandates in their building ordinances and policies*—but it is still a relevant one, particularly in areas experiencing new urban development.

Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) Helping Communities Reach Renewable Energy Goals

Sept. 19, 2017 by Benjamin Mow

Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) is becoming a more prevalent method for local communities to source electricity. Under CCA programs, cities and local governments generate or buy electricity, usually from renewable energy sources, based on the needs of their residents.

CCAs are a hybrid between municipal utilities and standard investor-owned utilities (IOU), as depicted in Figure 1. Typically, utilities (whether investor-owned or municipal) are responsible for purchasing and distributing power, grid maintenance, and customer service. Under a CCA program, the CCA, which is administered by the local government, purchases the power, while the incumbent IOU maintains the grid and provides customer service. Because the local government is involved in some of the standard utility functions, the CCA could be considered a middle ground between an IOU and a municipal utility.

Understanding Some Key Differences in Community Solar Policy across the States

June 2, 2016 by Jeffrey J. Cook

Poised to become a major contributor to future growth of the solar market by 2020, community solar programs have been established in 30 states across the country, as illustrated in the figure to the right. This blogpost addresses some of the key policy differences across the 14 states where statewide community solar programs have been enacted or otherwise implemented.

Phrase of the Day: Rate Base

Sept. 16, 2015 by Alexandra Aznar, Joyce McClaren

Rate of return regulation is a type of regulation that allows utilities to cover their operating expenses (i.e., variable costs) and ensure a fair rate of return on capital investments. The public utility commission determines the allowable rate of return for each utility. The utility’s rate base is the total value of a utility’s assets (e.g., plant, equipment, working capital, and deductions for accumulated depreciation). Both the rate of return and the rate base are components of the utility’s revenue requirement, which the utility collects from customers in the form of electricity rates.

Solar Energy Improving Resiliency: A Look at California During a Historical Drought

Aug. 19, 2015 by Alexandra Aznar

In February, the Solar STAT blog featured a post on 2012’s Hurricane Sandy and  how solar PV can support disaster resiliency . Extreme weather events are not limited to hurricanes, of course. Others, like California’s ongoing drought, pose additional challenges for electricity generators but also demonstrate an emerging role for solar energy.

How Solar PV Can Support Disaster Resiliency

Feb. 3, 2015 by Eliza Hotchkiss

When Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the east coast of the United States, New Jersey was ranked second in the country for solar photovoltaic (PV) implementation—only behind California. However, when millions of New Jerseyans were without power after the storm, only two PV systems in the state were operational.