Stronger Policies Could Help Ohio See Even More Benefits from Solar Power
Environment Ohio Research and Policy Center
COLUMBUS, OH – Today, Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center released a new report titled Lighting the Way. The report details strong solar energy growth across the nation including a 23% increase in Ohio in 2013. 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.
In 2013, solar capacity in Ohio grew from 67 MW to 88 MW. While this increase should be praised, Ohio still ranked 20th among the 30 states measured in amount of solar capacity installed last year. The recent passage of S.B 310, a freeze on state renewable energy standards, could set Ohio back in the rankings even more.
“Solar energy in Ohio, while substantial, still has room to grow,” said Environment Ohio’s Nate Lotze. “It has the potential to play a vital role in helping us meet carbon emission reduction targets under the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan. Hopefully when the two-year freeze ends, the solar industry here will still be strong enough to take on a larger share of Ohio’s energy production.”
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. Ten states with the most solar installed per/capita are driving 89% of the solar installed in the U.S, while, representing only 26 percent of the population and 20 percent of the electricity consumption.
And 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 3,800 in Ohio.
“These are the jobs of today and tomorrow in a growing industry that should be supported, not thwarted,” Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks said. “A report from the Solar Foundation shows that in 2013, we had 3,800 solar related jobs in Ohio, which we should focus on retaining and growing.”
Another major driver for solar energy is that it produces virtually 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.
By implementing more of these strategies on a state and local level, Ohio can become a solar leader as well.
“Though the statewide renewable energy standards have been disappointingly frozen, we urge Ohio’s leaders to move ahead with implementation of these policies,” said Nate Lotze. “As more and more people see the benefits of solar, we are confident that there will be even more public support for making solar a central piece of Ohio’s plan to meet its energy needs with far less pollution.”