Environment California Research & Policy Center
Sacramento – Today, Environment California Research & Policy Center released a new report: Lighting the Way: The Top Ten States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2013, ranking California 1st in the nation for installed solar capacity and 4th for installed solar capacity per capita (up from 6th place in 2012). 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 to help capture the virtually unlimited and pollution-free energy from the sun.
California’s commitment to solar helped fuel a tripling of solar energy nationwide between 2011 and 2013. Last year, solar capacity in California grew 48 percent, bringing total installed capacity in the state to 5,661 megawatts.
“Solar energy is emerging as a go-to energy option here in California and across the country,” said Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate with Environment California. “Thanks to the commitment of California’s leaders, this pollution-free energy option is poised to play a major role in helping us meet our carbon emission reduction targets and will position California as a leader at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference.”
Solar in the United States increased more than 120-fold in the last 10 years. In the first quarter of 2014, solar energy accounted for 74 percent of all the new electric generation capacity installed in the United States. California, along with the nine other states with the most solar installed per/capita, have 89 percent of the solar installed in the country, while representing only 26 percent of the population and 20 percent of the electricity consumption.
“Solar energy is clean and it has no fuel costs,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association. “It’s smart to invest in an energy source that reduces pollution, creates local jobs and keeps energy dollars in our local economy.”
As the solar industry grows, the cost for installed solar decreases, making it more accessible. The price of installed solar systems fell 60 percent between the beginning of 2011 and the end of 2013. Jobs in the solar industry are also growing rapidly. In 2013, there were more than 140,000 solar jobs in the U.S., including 47,000 in California.[i]
Another major driver for solar energy is that it produces no pollution; including climate-altering carbon emissions. According the report, solar power produces 96 percent less global warming pollution than coal-fired power plants over its entire life-cycle and 91 percent less global warming pollution than natural gas-fired power plants.
Several strong policies adopted by the top 10 solar states helped encourage homeowners and businesses to “go solar:”
- 9 states have strong net metering policies. In nearly all of the leading states, consumers are compensated at the full retail rate for the excess electricity they supply to the grid.
- 9 states have strong statewide interconnection policies. Good interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
- All 10 states have renewable electricity standards that set minimum requirements for the share of a utility’s electricity that must come from renewable sources, and 8 of them have solar carve-outs that set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean, distributed electricity.
- 9 states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements, and 8 allow property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.
“California officials deserve tremendous credit for recognizing the environmental and economic benefits of solar and taking action to make it a reality,” said Michelle Kinman. “As more people see the benefits of solar energy, we’re confident clean, limitless energy from the sun will be a growing part of California’s future.”