The NCSL Blog


By Megan Cleveland

Solar energy has experienced explosive growth in recent years. However, in 2017 solar installations fell on an annual basis for the first time since 2010, marking a transitional year for the market.

Asolar panellthough less solar was installed in 2017 than in the record-breaking 2016, the market still exceeded 2015 installation levels by 40 percent.

Despite this slowdown in the solar market, solar policy continues to move at a rapid pace. In 2017, 45 states and Washington, D.C., proposed or adopted policy changes related to solar energy, according to the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.

These states took nearly 250 actions on solar topics such as rate design, compensation for solar customers and community solar. This trend continues in 2018, with 42 states and Washington, D.C., proposing or adopting changes to solar policy in the second quarter alone.

State legislators, regulators and energy officials play a critical role in determining the solar regulatory framework in their states. However, the solar policy landscape is complex and difficult to navigate. NCSL’s new Solar Policy Toolkit discusses the challenges and opportunities that solar energy presents and provides the tools and knowledge policymakers need to create appropriate policies to achieve state solar energy goals.

Adapted from an earlier report, “Here Comes the Sun: A State Policy Handbook for Distributed Solar Energy,” the Solar Policy Toolkit provides a comprehensive take on solar issues state policymakers are confronting across the nation.

This new, interactive resource explores the many options and innovative approaches states have implemented or considered for distributed solar energy. The Toolkit covers 13 solar topics, ranging from compensation for solar producers and rate design, to low- and moderate-income customer access and solar PV panel recycling and decommissioning.

The Solar Policy Toolkit features updated content reflecting policy changes that have occurred over the last year. The page includes recent legislative and regulatory examples—such as California’s historic decision to require solar on all new residential construction beginning in 2020, Hawaii’s groundbreaking performance-based regulation legislation and New Jersey’s bill establishing an energy storage target. It also summarizes the latest developments in ongoing policy discussions, including the net metering saga and the “rooftop rate debate.”

The Toolkit includes policy analysis questions that allow policymakers to assess the distributed solar PV policies in their state, as well as references and resources for a deeper exploration of the topics covered.

Visit this new and innovative webpage to see how your state’s solar policies stack up and to learn about the options and approaches that can be implemented to meet your state’s solar energy goals.

Funding for the Solar Policy Toolkit and the corresponding report, “Here Comes the Sun: A State Policy Handbook for Distributed Solar Energy,” was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Megan Cleveland is a policy associate in NCSL’s Energy, Environment and Transportation Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.