‘C’ is for Catalyst
Amidst a growing sense of urgency to expedite the transition to a clean energy future, catalysts are paramount. Lasting reforms to our centuries-old energy system will not just magically happen in 50 states and a handful of territories. A planned, patient, and persistent approach is needed. This laborious (some might even say tedious) process takes a stimulus.
We know that improved economics, technology advancements, accessible financing mechanisms, and a well-prepared workforce are all important factors for market change to occur. But, central to this transition and integral to self-sustaining markets are the foundational, replicable rules and policies that govern our electricity sector.
As a quiet but effective catalyst in the electricity regulatory arena, IREC’s work in more than 30 states over the past three years has fundamentally helped expand opportunities in the nation’s top 20 emerging markets and ensure continued growth in the top 10 high penetration markets, while also having a considerable ripple effect in states beyond our immediate reach.
With a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Intiative supporting IREC’s state and national regulatory leadership, we spurred solar transformation in emerging and established markets alike: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, New Jersey, Washington and Wisconsin. With the support and guidance of the DOE, our talented Regulatory Advisory Committee, and the engagement of our expert attorneys and analysts at Keyes, Fox, & Wiedman, IREC prioritized activities that yielded a lasting impact on the national regulatory landscape.
With the creation of our landmark model rules for net metering, interconnection, and shared solar, the U.S. solar market continues to benefit from and adopt these workable, replicable best practices. Frequently referenced in state regulatory policy efforts, these tools transform and inform the regulatory dialogue and have made key policies more efficient for others to implement.
Similarly, nine other foundational reports – on solar valuation, distributed storage, integrated distribution planning, and annual solar market trends – and over 70 presentations to hundreds of stakeholders have had an enlightening effect on regulatory decision-making across the country.
Active engagement in nearly 50 regulatory proceedings, including the Western Electricity Coordination Council (WECC) regional transmission planning efforts (thanks to our partners at The Kris Mayes Law Firm), and outreach and coordination with hundreds of stakeholders, all led to consensus-based, workable solutions that have expanded access to solar for all ratepayers and customers.
Our path-defining work on interconnection on the FERC Small Generator Interconnection Procedures (SGIP), with support from another team partner Michael T. Sheehan, P.E., helped streamline the process of connecting to the grid. That success then led to a series of interconnection improvements in Massachusetts, California and Ohio – all of which defined a new high bar for interconnection best practices. Higher solar penetrations and anticipated growth are beckoning a growing number of states to adopt similar best practices, and our catalytic interconnection work continues to play out in Illinois, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and more.
The most recent solar market numbers speak to IREC’s impact. Over the three years of the DOE grant, the U.S. grid-connected solar PV market experienced record growth, ramping up from a cumulative installed capacity of 4 Gigawatts (GWdc) in 2011 to over 18 GWdc of solar PV as of the end of 2014. That represents a nearly five-fold increase in just three years. Distributed residential and non-residential solar PV markets made promising gains as well, with over 600,000 homes and businesses now hosting on-site solar systems. Of the top 10 solar states in terms of installed capacity, IREC was involved in multiple regulatory dockets in all of them. (No doubt, lots and lots of folks are responsible for this remarkable growth.)
Looking back, we’ve made some great progress, and we are most certainly proud.
Looking ahead, a few more catalytic reactions are what we need to cause a critical tipping point towards a more distributed, secure, and clean energy future.
We invite you to stay engaged, to keep up with what we’re doing in the regulatory world. Download our reports and model rules. Subscribe to our newsletters. Follow us in social media. We want our work to nurture discussions about what we have yet to do to fully realize a clean energy future.
Image: Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo
 Sherwood, Larry. US Solar Market Trends Report 2011, Interstate Renewable Energy Council, August 2012, page 4, available at: https://irecusa.org/annual-u-s-solar-market-trends-report/ and GreenTech Media, Inc. and Solar Energy Industries Association, US Solar Market Insight Report: 2014 Year in Review – Executive Summary [GTM/SEIA 2014 Year in Review-ES], page 3, available at: http://www.greentechmedia.com/research/ussmi
 GTM/SEIA 2014 Year in Review-ES, page 3.