The Spot for Clean Energy: A One-Stop Shop for State-by-State Solar Market Analysis

May 9, 2016 by Jeffrey J. Cook

Given the nature of the United States' solar market—with each of the 50 states forging independent paths—the number of distinct solar policies and programs is overwhelming.  For those attempting to wade through all of this data and conduct state-by-state policy and market analyses, the task can be quite cumbersome and intimidating. Until now.

an image of a logo that says State Policy Opportunity Tracker SPOT.

On May 4th, 2016, the Colorado State University Center for the New Energy Economy, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, launched the State Policy Opportunity Tracker (Spot) for Clean Energy, a new web-based portal that tracks 38 clean energy policies across all 50 states. The Spot will:

Serve as a hub of information on both existing state clean energy policies and, uniquely, future policy opportunities. SPOT synthesizes existing information related to 38 clean energy policies at the state level and documents whether a given state policy exists and where it stands related to 3 – 6 policy components… The overall value of this hub is to inform decision-making processes by providing policymakers, regulators, and interested stakeholders a clear snapshot of existing state policies as well as opportunities for future policy adoption.[1]

This data is compiled from multiple sources, including the Database of Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency (DSIRE) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) State and Local Policy Database, among others. As it relates to local solar markets, among some of the more impactful policies included in the Spot are: Distributed Generation/Solar Carve Outs, Feed-in-Tariffs, Interconnection, Net Metering, Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), Shared Renewables, and Third-Party Financing.

Why Spot?

Though the Spot leverages existing data sources, it repackages this data in an innovative way. First, each of the 38 policies is categorized based on a formalized policy stacking framework. As illustrated in the diagram, the framework includes three policy stacks: market preparation, market creation, and market expansion. The concept behind this framework is that policy effectiveness increases when market preparation and creation policies are in place prior to adopting expansion policies.

An illustration of a tiered system that leads to market saturation inside a drawing of a sun.

Categorizing these policies into one of the three stacks allows users to understand where a state stands in relation to the relative maturity of its clean energy market. Simply put, the database allows a user to quickly evaluate the quantity and types of market preparation, creation, and expansion policies present within each state. This information can help policymakers and analysts determine where gaps in foundational policies exist (if any) and identify future priority policy actions. In addition, solar businesses looking to identify promising states within which to operate can use the Spot to conduct market-by-market analyses to inform their decision-making.

The Spot then goes a step further and subdivides each of the 38 policies into three to six policy sub-components providing users with additional granularity for each policy. For example, the Distributed Generation / Solar Carve-out policy is subdivided into the five sub-components displayed below:

An illustration of a list of components.

Ultimately, the most unique contribution of this new database may be that it compiles a tremendous amount of important information into an easy-to-navigate website that allows for comparisons across policies, policy stacks, and states. Thus, it will serve as a one-stop shop for policymakers, industry, and other interested stakeholders to become more informed about local clean energy markets and policies, and to make decisions to achieve their policy and business goals.

[1] See: