Who is working against distributed solar: Strategies for defense


Across the country, on a national, state, and even local level, utilities and corporations have used their political power, deep pockets and other avenues of influence to support legislation and institute policies intended on striking down the efficacy of distributed generation, according to a report released by Environment America, the Frontier Group, and the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

And while many of these efforts have been successful to some degree, opponents of solar are not nearly batting 1.000. Previous entries in this series have included studies of specific campaigns that have failed to weaken rooftop solar, specifically Florida’s Amendment 1 in 2016. In our final examination of this report, pv magazine looks at the policy and regulatory actions that the authors believe can be effective tools to stop anti-solar efforts.

Being proactive

The first recommendation is to be iron-willed. Basically, net metering and other pro-distributed generation policies can’t come under attack if those attacks are discouraged from the start.

The report calls on decision makers to reject caps, restrictions on or elimination of net metering; rollbacks or elimination of state renewable energy standards; unfair or discriminatory charges or tariffs on solar power system owners; utility rate structures that penalize or discourage solar installation; and broader, unneeded regulatory burdens on solar energy.

These recommendations assume that the decision makers themselves support residential solar.

Strong leadership is needed

Outside of blocking attempts to discourage the resource, those in positions of power should further leverage their influence to promote policies that support the growth of rooftop solar, according to the authors.

Lawmakers must consider the full set of benefits distributed solar energy brings to the grid, ratepayers, and to society when making policy decisions. Additional policy recommendations include but aren’t limited to:

  • Implementing strong net metering and interconnection standards, which enable many customers to meet their own electricity needs with solar power
  • Supporting community solar projects and virtual net metering, which can expand public access to solar power
  • Enacting or expanding solar carve-outs and renewable electricity standards
  • Enabling financing mechanisms to allow for greater solar access for businesses and residents
  • Allowing companies that are not utilities to sell or lease solar to residents and businesses
  • Investing wisely in making the electric grid more intelligent, which will facilitate a greater role for distributed sources of energy such as solar power

For the energy transition to be a successful one, distributed generation will have a major role to play, and the authors of the report said that people holding positions of power are duty-bound to drive solar-friendly policies and advocacy.

While this is where the report ends, battles still rage daily against anti-solar policies and groups that look to undermine the resource. Moreover, there have been countless fights that this report was unable to cover, as there certainly will be in the future. If you are involved in or would like to bring attention to an ongoing or upcoming attack on distributed generation, reach out, and your testimony can help to continue this series.

This content is protected by copyright and may not be reused. If you want to cooperate with us and would like to reuse some of our content, please contact: editors@pv-magazine.com.