Skip to main content

Solar STAT Blog

This blog discusses state and local efforts to develop solar markets in the United States. With support from the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative, members of NREL's Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) author posts related to events, solar policy analysis, and technical assistance outcomes for the purpose of informing the market in a credible and timely fashion.

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

November 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. Continue reading

STAT Network attends NASEO's 2017 Annual Meeting to Talk Low-income Community Solar with Partners

September 25, 2017 by Alexandra Aznar

States are continually innovating on the solar policy and program front, with one of the more popular recent topics being community solar applications for low- and moderate income (LMI) populations. (See previous STAT blogs on community solar policies and efforts to expand solar access to LMI populations for additional background.)  Over the past year, NREL’s Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) Network partnered with the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) and Lotus Engineering and Sustainability (Lotus) to analyze CEO’s Low-Income Community Solar Demonstration Project. The trio presented an overview of the analysis and lessons learned from the project at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) in New Orleans, Louisiana (agenda) last week. Continue reading

Solar-Ready Building Design: A Summary of Technical Considerations

September 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.

Continue reading

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

September 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.

Continue reading

Customers in Most States Could Cut Energy Costs by Adding Battery Storage to Solar

September 14, 2017 by Seth Mullendore

New research shows that more than 25 percent of all commercial customers across the continental United States may be able to further reduce their electricity bills by adding battery storage in conjunction with solar installations. And perhaps surprisingly, some of the best economic opportunities for customer-sited storage are in states like Colorado, Michigan, and Georgia.

These findings are detailed in a new paper released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Clean Energy Group (CEG), Identifying Potential Markets for Behind-the-Meter Battery Energy Storage: A Survey of U.S. Demand Charges. It represents the first comprehensive analysis of commercial battery storage market opportunities across the U.S., finding that about 5 million customers nationwide may have the potential to cost-effectively invest in storage technologies today.

Continue reading

Call for Applications: Analysis Support for State Public Utility Commissions (Due Sept. 1)

August 01, 2017 by Alison Holm

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), is initiating a three-year analytical support program for state public utility commissions (PUCs). PUCs will have access to in-depth analytical support from the national laboratories on topics related to distribution system planning and regulatory, policy, programmatic, and technology assessments of distributed energy resources (DERs). Continue reading

Surveying the States: Policy Strategies for Fostering Clean Energy-related Economic Development

March 23, 2017 by Jeffrey J. Cook

To date, no one source has collected all of the clean energy-related economic development policies that states have adopted to spur growth. This has made it difficult to answer this important question: what policies foster the most job development and offer the best return on investment? A recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report serves as a foundation to answer this question. Continue reading

Are Cities Codifying Clean Energy Policy? The Answer is Yes

January 24, 2017 by Jeffrey J. Cook

Cities, or municipalities, account for over 70% of worldwide energy consumption. In the United States, city governments have authority over functions such as land-use, building development, transportation, and a variety of other policy areas that can impact energy use. Cities have used this authority to create incentives for the development of clean energy within their jurisdictions through planning, programming, and codification. Codification refers to the process whereby cities establish city ordinances, or laws. Codification can offer more certainty that policy goals will be achieved, given that repealing ordinances typically requires a vote by city government. Continue reading

FERC Ruling Paves Way for Increased Local Renewable Energy Generation

December 26, 2016 by Alison Holm

In June 2016 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a ruling that paves the way for municipal and cooperative utilities to procure additional, local renewable energy generating capacity. Continue reading

New Strides in the Residential PACE Space

September 06, 2016 by Nate Hausman

While the costs of solar photovoltaics (PV) have decreased considerably over the last decade,[1] many customers still need long-term, low-cost financing to make going solar affordable. Financing mechanisms like leases, loans, and power purchase agreements spread out the initial cost of residential solar installations over a term of years.

Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (R-PACE) offers another solution for homeowners to pay for a solar investment over time.

Continue reading