Vermont ranks ninth in solar productionJuly 23,2013
By EVAN POPP
For the Times argus
BARRE — A report released this week by the Environmental America Research & Policy Center and Vermont Public Interest Research Group ranked Vermont 9th in the country for per capita solar installations.
“More and more, homes and businesses are turning to solar as a pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs,” said Ben Walsh, a clean energy advocate with VPIRG. “With the increasing threat of global warming, we must maintain momentum and resist the temptation to sit back and coast. States like Vermont can show the way.”
The report, titled “Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States,” centers around the increase in solar energy nationwide. The report highlighted the top 12 states in solar installation per capita, dubbed the “Dazzling Dozen.” These 12, including Vermont, have taken a leading role in the spread of solar energy, through supportive solar friendly policies and a commitment to expansion of renewable energy, the report states.
Gov. Peter Shumlin praised Vermont’s continued development of solar energy, but also called for further progress.
“Vermont is putting solar power to work and is leading the way to a clean energy future that tackles the threat of climate change while growing jobs and the economy,” Shumlin said in a statement. “We have more than doubled our solar energy in the last two and a half years, but we know our work is not done. We plan to keep Vermont at the forefront of this energy revolution.”
Other members of that revolution include Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Massachusetts. Along with Vermont these states make up the “Dazzling Dozen,” which accounts for only 28 percent of the U.S. population but makes a 85 percent of the countries solar installations.
Despite the top-heavy nature of the solar energy installations numbers, solar energy is spreading across the country. According to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association, and GTM research, the United States has tripled its solar capacity since 2010. SEIA also reports that the price to install a solar system dropped by 26 percent in 2012.
In Vermont solar installation increased by 300 percent in 2012, VPIRG reports.
“The sky’s the limit on solar energy,” said Rob Sargent, energy program director for Environment America. “Vermont’s progress should make us confident that we can do much more. To create a clean energy future Vermonters need to continue building on the policies that are working.”
Much of Vermont’s solar success has come from its net metering policy. Net metering allows customers to “offset their electricity bills with onsite solar, and receive reliable and fair compensation for the excess electricity they provide to the grid.” Vermont is known to have some of the best net metering policies in the country. Despite the 300 percent increase in solar installations in 2012, there is still work to be done on Vermont’s solar policy.
Vermont utility companies can deny customers solar power if the utility has reached a 4 percent capacity of solar energy on their net metering peak demand. This means that in a community if there is too much solar demand, some people may be denied solar energy by their utility once the 4 percent cap is reached.
As of now, three Vermont utilities have reached the 4 percent cap. This coming year VPIRG will be partnering with energy companies and environmentalists to urge the Legislature to change the law regarding the 4 percent limit. VPIRG believes the law is holding Vermont back from reaching its maximum solar capacity.
“We believe everyone should have the right to go renewable,” Walsh said.
Overall, the news of Vermont’s top ten ranking was received well by renewable energy advocates around the state. But everyone involved realizes that the work to spread solar energy around Vermont is far from over.
“Today we celebrate the solar success of our state, but we also recognize that we cannot lose the momentum we have,” concluded Walsh. “Solar is growing fast, and by building on our success and ensuring that all Vermonters continue to have the right to go renewable, we can make certain solar is a cornerstone in Vermont’s efforts to combat climate change.”
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