By Kevin Frazzini
The forecast for solar energy remains mostly sunny, even if recent news from Washington clouded the industry’s skies.
The Trump administration’s decision to impose tariffs on solar panels made in China will hurt the industry, some critics say. But recent trends suggest that’s a hitch, not a reversal.
Fact is, it’s getting tough to ignore the growing number of big solar installations, the panels visible on rooftops and the utility companies adding solar to their energy resource mixes, as NCSL’s Megan Cleveland and Jocelyn Durkay report in this month’s State Legislatures magazine.
In 2016, for the second consecutive year, solar represented the largest share of energy resources added to the power grid, the authors write, citing GTM Research, which tracks the global electricity industry. Solar now represents 2 percent of the nation’s total energy mix, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The growth has state lawmakers asking questions. Where are solar energy systems best located? What economic development opportunities can solar bring to local communities? How do we make solar energy accessible to a broader range of people?
The answers to those questions will affect state energy markets. “The policies we create in the legislature send the signals to the industry on whether to invest in our state or not,” Nevada Assemblyman Chris Brooks (D) says.
In North Carolina, which saw a spike in solar development last year, lawmakers now are looking for “market-based solutions to keep renewable energy—especially solar—alive and viable in our state,” Representative John Szoka (R) says.
To learn how new solar energy developments are fueling local economies and providing jobs for thousands, read our full story, “Plugged Into Solar.” Their priorities and policy preferences vary, but lawmakers increasingly have a sunny outlook on solar.
Kevin Frazzini is the assistant editor of State Legislatures magazine.