New Report: Arizona Ranks #1 in the Nation in Solar Power

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Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center

Phoenix – Today, Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center 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 Arizona #1 in the nation per capita for solar installations. This makes Arizona one of a dozen states that have led the nation in solar energy with supportive policies and a commitment to continued expansion. Last year, solar capacity in Arizona grew by 65% bringing it to a total of 1,097 Megawatts.

“The sky’s the limit on solar energy,” said Bret Fanshaw, State Advocate with Environment Arizona. “Arizona’s progress should make us confident that we can do much more. Our message today is clear: If you want your state to be a leader in pollution-free solar energy, set big goals and get good policies on the books.”

Solar energy is currently under debate in Arizona, with Arizona Public Service’s recent proposals to the Arizona Corporation Commission that would virtually eliminate net metering – a policy that helps Arizonans go solar by giving them credit for the energy produced by solar panels on their home. APS is proposing to eliminate that credit and impose a $50-100 monthly increase for solar customers on their utility bills.

“Now is the time for Arizona’s leaders at the Corporation Commission to stand up for solar,” said Fanshaw. “We should take our role as a clean energy leader seriously and continue to make progress through effective public policy already on the books, not make it more difficult for Arizonans to tap into the sun.”

Environment Arizona was joined by Barry Goldwater Jr., former Republican Congressman and current Chairman for T.U.S.K. (Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed) in releasing the report.

“Thanks to an abundance of sunshine, a thriving solar energy industry, and current policies that foster rooftop solar, Arizona is leading the way,” stated Goldwater. “It would be a tragedy if utility monopolies put a stop to our successes by convincing regulators to pass a solar tax.”

Solar is on the rise across the country. America has more than three times as much solar photovoltaic capacity as it did in 2010, and more than 10 times as much as it did in 2007. Not only that, but the price of solar panels fell by 26 percent in 2012. Environment Arizona attributes the solar boom to the leadership of Arizona officials and those in other leading states profiled in the report.

“More and more, homes and businesses are turning to solar as a pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs,” said Fanshaw. “With the increasing threat of global warming, we must maintain momentum.”

The report emphasizes that it is not necessarily the 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: California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Vermont.

While these twelve states account for only 28 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 85 percent of the nation’s installed solar energy.

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.
  • 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.

“Today we gather to celebrate the solar success of our state but also to remember that we cannot lose the momentum we have gained,” concluded Fanshaw. “Right now only a small fraction of our energy comes from solar. By setting a bold goal of getting 10 percent of our energy from the sun by 2020, and adopting strong policies to back up that goal, Arizona can and will maintain the momentum it has gained and continue to pave the way for the rest of the country. In order to achieve this goal, we need the continued commitment from our state leaders to keep enabling policies to further increase solar development in Arizona.”