On July 23, Environment America Research & Policy Center, in
partnership locally with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group
(VPIRG), released "Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from
America's Top 12 Solar States," a new report highlighting a solar
energy boom across the country. The report ranks Vermont 9th in the
nation for per capita solar installations. This makes Vermont one
of a dozen states that have led the nation in solar energy with
supportive policies and a commitment to continued expansion.
"More and more, homes and businesses are turning to solar as a
pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs," said Ben Walsh,
Clean Energy Advocate with VPIRG. "With the increasing threat of
global warming, we must maintain momentum and resist the temptation
to sit back and coast. States like Vermont can show the way."
Governor Peter Shumlin joined VPIRG in praising the state's
progress, while calling for more work to be done.
"Vermont is putting solar power to work and is leading the way
to a clean energy future that tackles the threat of climate change
while growing jobs and the economy," Shumlin said. "We have more
than doubled our solar energy in the last two and a half years, but
we know our work is not done. We plan to keep Vermont at the
forefront of this energy revolution."
Solar is on the rise across the country. According to the U.S.
Solar Market Insight: 2012 Year-in-Review report by the Solar
Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, America had
more than three times as much solar capacity as it did in 2010, and
more than 10 times as much as it did in 2007. To boot, SEIA also
found that the price to install a solar system fell by 26 percent
"The sky's the limit on solar energy," said Rob Sargent, Energy
Program Director for Environment America. "Vermont's progress
should make us confident that we can do much more. To create a
clean energy future Vermonters need to continue building on the
policies that are working."
The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight
that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and
local governments have created effective public policy for the
development of the solar industry.
Other states profiled in the report include: Arizona,
California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Delaware, Nevada, New
Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Massachusetts.
While these 12 states account for only 28 percent of the U.S.
population, they make up 85 percent of the nation's installed solar
The report highlights the strong policies adopted by the top
solar states that encouraged homeowners and businesses to "go
solar." Most notably:
11 of the 12 have strong net metering policies, which allow
customers to offset their electricity bills with onsite solar, and
receive reliable and fair compensation for the excess electricity
they provide to the grid. Vermont is widely recognized as having
some of the best net metering policies in the nation.
11 of the 12 states have renewable electricity
standards, requiring utilities to provide a minimum amount of
their power from renewable sources; and nine of them
have solar carve outs, which set specific targets for
solar or other forms of clean onsite power.
10 of the 12 have strong statewide interconnection
policies. Interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle
required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy
systems to the grid.
The majority of the states allow for creative financing
options such as third-party power purchase agreements and
property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.
The report also cited Vermont's CLEAN Contracts or "Standard
Offer" program, which has accounted for more than a third of the
solar power built in the state.
In addition to covering what has worked so far, VPIRG
highlighted several policy changes that would make going solar
easier and more affordable:
Requiring Vermont utilities to allow their customers to go
solar, no matter how many already have. Under current law, once a
utility has enough solar capacity to hit 4% of its peak electric
demand, it can deny customers the right to go solar.
Streamlining permitting to make it easier to build
community-scale systems above 150 kW in size.
Allowing larger community-scale systems to be built under the
net metering law. Currently systems larger than 500 kW are not
"Today we celebrate the solar success of our state, but we also
recognize that we cannot lose the momentum we have," concluded
Walsh. "Solar is growing fast, and by building on our success... we
can make certain solar is a cornerstone in Vermont's efforts to
combat climate change."