Virginia solar policies are among worst in nation, study says

Solar panels

Report: Rooftop solar in Virginia lags behind the rest

A recent study by the Center for Biological Diversity ranked each U.S. state according to the overall success of its solar energy policies and its apparent willingness to move toward renewable energy sources. Virginia, it turns out, has some of the worst solar policies in the nation, as it ranked very low on the list.

The study, Throwing Shade: 10 Sunny States Blocking Distributed Solar Development, noted that rooftop solar in the state of Virginia has above-average potential, but weak legislation and a lack of some key government components leave Virginia at the back of the pack.

The ten worst solar states in the U.S.

In the study, the Center for Biological Diversity highlighted regions that are “blocking distributed solar potential through overtly lacking and destructive distributed solar policy,” and targeted 10 states in particular — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), that group of ten states owns more than a third (35 percent) of the total rooftop solar energy potential in the contiguous U.S., but accounts for just 6 percent of the total installed distributed solar capacity as of March 2016. The top ten solar states in the U.S., on the other hand, account for 86 percent of the total solar capacity in the U.S. So there’s big gap to fill and there are a lot of opportunities to fill that gap.

Virginia gets a failing grade

The Center for Biological Diversity assigned grades to each U.S. state based on the state’s performance on a number of different factors, including laws that would either promote or discourage solar development. Virginia received an “F,” the lowest possible grade in the report.

According to the report, Virginia ranks 11th in potential for rooftop solar energy in the contiguous U.S., as the state’s climate, its relatively large size and its relatively large population put it in a position to succeed in the realm of rooftop solar power. But despite the fact that only 10 states have more solar potential Virginia, 20 states have more installed solar capacity than Virginia.

The Center for Biological Diversity recommended a number of changes that Virginia could implement to turn more of its solar potential into actual solar power. One recommendation centered on increasing access, while another revolved around the concept of revamping the state’s net metering policies.

Net metering is system in which owners of residential (usually rooftop) solar installations are compensated by state utilities for unused electrical power generated by their solar arrays. Currently, at least 43 U.S. states have net metering in place in some capacity.

According to the report, Virginia’s current net metering setup puts too much control in the hands of the utility company, and too little in the hands of the homeowner. Updating the laws to make the net metering policy more user-friendly could go a long way. Additionally, the Center for Biological Diversity recommended creating a community solar program and low-income financing program to help diversify access to residential solar throughout the state.

Virginia has good solar potential. With a little extra effort from state legislators, the state could quickly jump to the top tier of solar performers in the nation.

Source → Center for Biological Diversity