AUSTIN - Today, Environment Texas Research & Policy Center released Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States, a new report highlighting the “Dazzling Dozen” states leading the solar energy boom across the country. Texas, however, missed the cut and ranks thirteenth in the nation for per capita solar installations.
“Texas has the best solar energy potential in the nation,” said Rachel Stone, Clean Energy Attorney with Environment Texas. “There is no reason why we can’t follow the path established by the top solar states to create vigorous markets for solar energy here in Texas. Considering the increasing threat of global warming, Texas can and must become a leading solar state.”
Last year, solar capacity in Texas grew by 46%, bringing it to a total of 139 Megawatts. Leading solar states such as Arizona and New Jersey, however, have 22-33 times as many solar installations per capita than Texas. Environment Texas attributed the difference to the strong policies adopted by those states’ officials.
Despite weak state policies in Texas, the report praises San Antonio and Austin for their solar production, which makes up 85% of the solar produced in the state. The report credits much of the solar success in Austin and San Antonio to net metering policies that compensate consumers fairly for the solar energy systems they install on their homes and businesses. These cities demonstrate how much can be achieved on a local level.
"Texas is clearly behind the leading states in facilitating solar energy, but San Antonio and Austin have made great strides with strong local solar programs that are already delivering measurable benefits,” said Charlie Hemmeline, President of Solar Austin. “Both cities should push forward locally to capture even greater benefits. Austin, for example, should increase the city’s 2020 solar goal to 400 megawatts and support new pathways for continued market development."
“We are invigorated by the advances San Antonio’s solar market has made over the past few years,” said Lanny Sinkin, Executive Director of San Antonio Solar. “We strongly support the city’s goal in the Solar Development Plan to get San Antonio on US EPA’s “Top 20 Local Government” Green Power Partnership List through increased municipal purchases and onsite use of green power. San Antonio’s CPS Energy 400 megawatt OCI project and robust support for distributed solar on homes and businesses will put San Antonio into a solar leadership position nationally.”
States profiled in the report include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Vermont. These states, accounting for only 28 percent of the U.S. population, encompass 85 percent of the nation’s installed solar energy.
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, most notably:
11 of the 12 have strong net metering policies, allowing customers to offset their electric bills with reliable and fair compensation for the excess electricity they provide to the grid.
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, reducing the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
The majority of the top solar states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements and property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.
“Right now, only a small fraction of our energy comes from solar,” concluded Stone. “Austin and San Antonio have really stepped up as solar leaders, and demonstrate that the state can do so much more. With commitment from our state officials to enable policies that grow solar development, Texas could lead the nation. We would reap the benefits in cleaner air and reductions of climate change and global warming pollution from fossil fuel use, not to mention growing the state’s clean energy economy.”