The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA®) is the national trade association for the U.S. solar energy industry, powering solar innovation through education and advocacy. SEIA works with 1000 member organizations to promote, manufacture, install and support the development of solar energy, growing the number of jobs and championing cost-competitive solar in America. Some of the pro-solar initiatives that SEIA is focused on are:
1. Streamlined Permitting
Depending on the state, local government, and the type and size of the system, the solar permitting process can require significant time and cost, for both residential and commercial systems. Navigating the myriad permitting requirements for each state and municipality can be quite difficult and burdensome, especially for small installers. Establishing a streamlined and cost-effective permitting process for installers will result in increased solar coverage for photovoltaic (PV) and solar heating and cooling (SHC) systems.
2. Grid Modernization
Our centralized U.S. electric grid was built a century ago for large utility companies and designed to transport electricity from central station power plants to last-mile customers. Solar energy is changing all that. Our 21st-century grid should help distributed energy technologies flourish and provide reliable, low-cost power for consumers. Grid modernization efforts in states present significant risks and opportunities for solar. For example, some states have already gotten a jump on net energy metering, with more seem likely to follow.
3. Utility Rate Design and Complementary Policies
Electric utilities operate differently from most other businesses. Not subject to the competitive forces, they’re granted a state-authorized monopoly over customers in a specified geographic area. To prevent the utility from abusing this monopoly position, regulators closely control what types of business the utility can conduct, approve their costs, and decide their levels of revenue and profit. Under the “cost of service” regulation, utilities have every incentive to build more infrastructure and sell more electricity. This works against reducing electricity use and increasing access to alternative generation such as distributed PV systems. The goal should be to provide more options for utilities and consumers.
4. Solar Rebates and Incentives
Solar energy incentives can take a variety of forms depending on the administrative abilities of a given state. Some states have chosen to offer tax credits, while others offer up-front rebates, and still, others offer performance-based incentives that are paid by an agency or utility. Policy can be shaped to achieve the following three objectives:
- Set incentives for payback targets
- Encourage efficient systems design
- Phase-out incentives overtimes
5. Solar Access Rights
Local ordinances or homeowner’s association (HOA) rules can affect the installation of solar systems on homes or businesses. While these rules are created to ensure uniformity or uphold a community’s aesthetic standard, they may inadvertently prohibit the installation of solar electric or solar heating and cooling technologies. Lawmakers are now acting to protect property owners’ solar access rights. Solar easements allow a property owner to negotiate for the rights to unobstructed sunlight on their property.
6. Property-Assessed Clean Energy
Property-assessed clean energy (PACE) helps home and business owners finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for their property. PACE is a voluntary program in which a home or business owner will receive financing from a local government to cover the up-front cost of qualified energy improvements, and in exchange, will repay the up-front cost through a special assessment on their property tax over a period of years or decades. Encouraging energy efficiency improvements such as insulation, weather sealing, and high-efficiency water heaters as well as solar and other on-site renewable energy systems, PACE spreads the cost of these energy improvements over the lifetime of the project. PACE can both increase property values and save consumers money by reducing energy costs.
As you can see, solar trade associations like SEIA® play an important role in helping guide solar regulations toward practical policies beneficial to utilities, consumers and the valued network of contractors and installers. At SolaTrim, we applaud these efforts and welcome dialogue at the local, state and federal levels to encourage the growth of solar in our neighborhoods and across our nation.