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Background

While solar markets are booming across the United States, there are communities, states, and regions that have not yet experienced much—if any—solar deployment to date. These nascent markets may be in the early stages of evaluating and adopting policies, programs, and tools to attract solar development and overcome barriers to uptake. Certain areas of the solar market, such as solar for multifamily housing, are newer and still evolving and require more tailored tools and approaches to address identified challenges. This toolkit offers tools and resources to help stakeholders navigate nascent markets and deploy strategies to enable solar growth.

Several Solar Market Pathways teams have pioneered market improvements to increase solar adoption in nascent markets by:

  • Analyzing market barriers and opportunities.
  • Demonstrating the potential of solar through groundbreaking pilot projects.
  • Removing identified barriers and reducing costs.
  • Spurring local solar demand and supporting the solar workforce.
  • Convening diverse stakeholders to create a shared vision for a vibrant solar market.

Toolkit

A nascent market is generally defined as one that is either new or still under development. The process of developing a nascent market is iterative over time, adapting as market conditions change. The first step in building a new market includes assessing market potential and opportunities for growth, as well as thoughtfully evaluating barriers with guidance from diverse stakeholders. From there, strategies to remove or address those barriers can be developed, implemented, and evaluated. Catalyzing sustainable market growth, whether within a specific sector of the solar market or in a new geographic market, requires a combination of longer-term goals and shorter-term milestones that reflect market transformation. Perseverance is key as new concepts are tried, tested, and refined. The resources below are intended to help policymakers, advocates, and others working in nascent solar markets and developing strategies for growth.

Market Assessment Tools and Approaches

Conducting an assessment and analysis of the current local market is a crucial first step for a community to prioritize strategies to strengthen and grow its solar market. This is also an important opportunity to begin engaging with stakeholders to create a shared understanding of local market conditions, barriers, and opportunities. At the outset of its three-year project, Cook County and its project partners analyzed the state of community solar and the shared solar market potential in the county in order to establish a common understanding of existing market conditions. Similarly, the nonprofit Ecolibrium3 examined the solar market landscape in Duluth, Minnesota and also completed a baseline solar market analysis, which helped the team identify barriers to growth. In working to advance the multifamily solar market in California, the Center for Sustainable Energy conducted a desktop analysis of the California multifamily building stock to determine the untapped potential for solar on multifamily housing, and developed a statewide market assessment report.

Another important step for communities is to assess any existing solar policies to ensure that they are enabling, rather than hindering, solar development. The U.S. Department of Energy’s SolSmart Program, a national designation program for local governments, provides a list of permitting, planning, and other policy considerations in its application that communities can use as a tool to review existing policies, address barriers, and reduce solar costs.

Resources

Tool:
SolSmart Program Guide SolSmart Program Guide
Author:  The Solar Foundation

A guide to the SolSmart program which offers support to communities as they work to grow their solar market.

Tool:
SolSmart Application SolSmart Application
Author:  The Solar Foundation

The application to the SolSmart program provides a checklist that communities can use to take stock of the local actions they are taking to strengthen their solar market.

Report:
Local Energy Matters: Baseline Solar Market Analysis for Duluth, ... Local Energy Matters: Baseline Solar Market Analysis for Duluth, MN
Author:  Ecolibrium3

Duluth’s baseline analysis of installed solar capacity by sector, installed cost, financing, and barriers intended to identify best areas of future focus for advancing the local market.

Report:
Local Energy Matters: Solar Market Landscape Report Local Energy Matters: Solar Market Landscape Report
Author:  Ecolibrium3

A report examining the local solar market including installer availability and quality, financing, development process, hardware, code/policy, solar mapping, and cost.

 
Report:
Community Solar Opportunity Assessment for Cook County Community Solar Opportunity Assessment for Cook County
Author:  Cook County

This analysis quantifies the shared solar market potential by site, characteristics or type, subscriber type, and ownership model in the county.

 
Report:
Community Solar Best Practices Analysis Community Solar Best Practices Analysis
Author:  Cook County

The study identifies model programs and national best practices in Community Solar and provides a baseline framework for policy positions to accelerate community solar in Cook County.

     
Report:
California NEM-V Market Assessment California NEM-V Market Assessment
Author:  CSE

This report assesses the current NEM-V Market within CA and highlighting potential market developments that could support greater NEM-V adoption throughout the state.

Market Development Strategies

In addition to conducting local solar market assessments, stakeholders can work collaboratively to identify and implement market development strategies. This process may include gaining an understanding of available tools and best practices to both optimize the deployment of available resources and identify additional resources and strategies needed to overcome market barriers. While each market will need to develop customized strategies and approaches, goal-setting, demonstration pilot projects, case studies, and strategic plans are proven tools to educate and engage stakeholders, thus garnering broader support for future market growth.

Salt Lake City and its local nonprofit community partner, Utah Clean Energy, worked together to identify priority strategies to accelerate the statewide solar market. This work was summarized in a 10-year solar deployment plan that reviews market conditions and establishes a set of goals and corresponding strategies. Similarly, the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation facilitated a stakeholder process to develop Vermont Solar Pathways, a plan that outlines how solar can comprise at least 20% of total electricity use in the state by 2025 to meet the state’s environmental, energy, and economic goals.

To demonstrate the project viability of C-PACE financing, the CivicPACE team released case studies on the Elsie Whitlow Charter School and the Phyllis Wheatley Young Women’s Christian Association projects, which educated stakeholders on the potential for solar market expansion. Cook County completed case studies on 15 potential community solar host sites within the county and provided an overview detailing the site selection process, feasibility assessments, and financial analysis performed for each pilot site as a way to demonstrate community solar potential to stakeholders.

For projects limited to a particular market segment, strategies may be more focused. The Center for Sustainable Energy—focused on jumpstarting the multifamily housing sector in California—created a multifamily solar market development plan, as well as targeted toolkits with resources for owners and managers of multifamily properties.

Resources

Tool:
Multifamily Solar Market Development Plan Multifamily Solar Market Development Plan
Author:  CSE

This plan is intended to help policymakers, regulators, local governments, multifamily stakeholders and others in CA and beyond to expand multifamily solar in their jurisdictions.

Tool:
A Bright Future: A 10 Year Solar Deployment Plan for Utah A Bright Future: A 10 Year Solar Deployment Plan for Utah
Author:  Utah Clean Energy

A plan to grow Utah’s solar market focused on five key areas: Solar Markets & Access, Permitting, Interconnection, Utility Regulatory Models and Solar, Storage, and Resiliency.

Report:
Vermont Solar Pathways Vermont Solar Pathways
Author:  VEIC

This report specifies the policy, regulatory and market conditions needed for distributed solar to play an important role in meeting Vermont’s 90% renewables by 2050 energy goals.

Report:
Pathways for Innovation: The Role of Pilots and Demonstrations ... Pathways for Innovation: The Role of Pilots and Demonstrations in Reinventing the Utility Business Model
Author:  Rocky Mountain Institute

This report discusses utility demonstration projects and how they can be used for multiple purposes, including scaling DER deployment.

 
Tool:
Campus PV Development Roadmap Template Campus PV Development Roadmap Template
Author:  MREA

The Campus PV Development Roadmap serves as the guiding framework for solar photovoltaic (PV) development for the university campus and associated properties.

Report:
The Effectiveness of State-Level Policies on Solar Market Development ... The Effectiveness of State-Level Policies on Solar Market Development in Different State Contexts
Author:  NREL

This report evaluates the effectiveness of state policies in supporting solar markets, finding that solar-specific policies are correlated with solar development but other factors can play a role as well.

Education and Engagement

Growing a solar market involves the collaboration of many diverse stakeholders, including policymakers, regulators, local government permitting agencies, code officials and inspectors, solar installers, community nonprofits, and the general public. Successful stakeholder engagement processes allow for open, transparent forums where all stakeholders can access information on solar basics, technical considerations surrounding integration and installations, the policy and regulatory landscape, and other factors affecting the market.

Stakeholder outreach efforts may also be internal to an organization or companies as a way to get buy-in for new solar initiatives. For example, Dominion Energy Virginia, an investor-owned utility, developed training modules specifically for their project’s internal advisory team to establish a common understanding of technical and regulatory matters surrounding solar energy. The Community Solar Value Project developed a robust toolbox of resources intended to help utilities navigate and surmount internal silos across departments, allowing them to deploy more valuable community solar projects.

Stakeholder engagement and educational efforts can also be important for garnering support and local buy-in for the concept of solar and its suitability across a region. Ecolibrium3 created the online solar map Duluth Shines to allow stakeholders to see the rooftop solar potential in Duluth and to jumpstart the market. In its local benefits analysis, Cook County explored the potential economic, environmental, and energy benefits associated with the construction and maintenance of community solar installations.

Community pilots can also be an effective means of identifying which educational and communication strategies work best to increase awareness of new solar market opportunities. Through their Multifamily Solar Pilot Project, the Center for Sustainable Energy field tested various strategies while simultaneously educating the community about the opportunity to deploy solar on multifamily housing.

For more resources on stakeholder engagement, visit our Expanding Participation and Engagement Innovation.

Resources

Presentation:
Module I: Electric Industry Background Module I: Electric Industry Background
Author:  Dominion Energy Virginia

This presentation provides an introduction to electric power and the electric utility industry.

Report:
Community Solar Local Benefits Analysis Community Solar Local Benefits Analysis
Author:  Cook County

This assessment explores potential economic, environmental and energy benefits associated with construction and maintenance of community solar installations at scale.

Report:
Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic Technical Potential in the United ... Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic Technical Potential in the United States: A Detailed Assessment
Author:  NREL

This analysis quantifies the technical potential of rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems in the continental United States and includes estimates of potential installed capacity and annual generation by state broken down by building size.

Report:
Installed Cost Benchmarks and Deployment Barriers for Residential ... Installed Cost Benchmarks and Deployment Barriers for Residential Solar Photovoltaics with Energy Storage: Q1 2016
Author:  NREL, Rocky Mountain Institute, U.S. DOE

This report provides detailed component and system-level cost breakdowns for residential PV systems paired with energy storage and highlights barriers to further growth of solar plus storage.

 
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Video:
Perspectives on Solar: Consumer ... Perspectives on Solar: Consumer and Community Advocates
Author:  ISC

Highlights addressing consumer equity issues in solar policies, campaigns, and new market pathways, plus managing challenges between solar interests and consumer and community interests.

Policy, Regulatory, and Financial Tools

State and local policies are critical to the success of any solar market. In addition to examining existing policies and market conditions, stakeholders should evaluate lessons learned and best practices from other regions that can be applied locally to help streamline solar installations and address financial barriers. On behalf of Dominion Energy Virginia, Navigant Consulting prepared a distributed solar integration and best practices review summarizing leading practices in distributed generation interconnection and other related topics from 10 other utilities. Cook County developed a best practices analysis that they used to create a baseline framework for community solar policies.

As stakeholders work to develop new resources for their specific contexts, they can leverage publically-available resources on policy and programmatic best practices to inform and guide local initiatives without having to reinvent the wheel. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council has developed several resources that provide policy guidance based on regulatory activities across the country, including model interconnection procedures and model rules for shared renewable energy programs. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory highlights key findings from state and local solar efforts through their Solar Technical Assistance Team blog, and they have also developed several foundational resources on distributed solar to assist stakeholders navigating common market challenges.

To ensure solar stakeholders are kept apprised of updates and transitions that might impact economics, the value proposition, and key processes, solar development teams need a strategy for communicating any changes to policy and regulatory conditions, especially in multi-state regions. Through their efforts to harmonize regional solar energy policy and create more market uniformity across states in the northeast, the Northeast Solar Energy Market Coalition offered regular updates to its regional members and kept an up-to-date website of important policy and regulatory changes.

Resources

Tool:
Priority Considerations for Interconnection Standards: A Quick ... Priority Considerations for Interconnection Standards: A Quick Reference Guide for Utility Regulators
Author:  IREC

This reference guide serves as a supplement to IREC’s Model Interconnection Procedures, with key considerations for states working to improve/update interconnection procedures.

Report:
Shared Renewable Energy for Low-to-Moderate-Income Consumers: ... Shared Renewable Energy for Low-to-Moderate-Income Consumers: Policy Guidelines and Model
Author:  IREC

This report provides an overview of key barriers to LMI customer participation in shared renewable energy programs and key policy guidelines and program design recommendations.

Report:
Shared Solar Value Proposition – Part II Shared Solar Value Proposition – Part II
Author:  Cook County

Building from Part I, this analysis includes utility impacts and provisions of the 2016 legislation. Results show a positive business case for system owners and subscribers.

Report:
Grid-Connected Distributed Generation: Compensation Mechanism ... Grid-Connected Distributed Generation: Compensation Mechanism Basics
Author:  NREL

This report describes compensation mechanisms for grid-connected, behind-the-meter distributed generation, including metering and billing arrangements.

 
Tool:
Community Solar Policy Decision Matrix Community Solar Policy Decision Matrix
Author:  Coalition for Community Solar Access

The national trade association for community solar developed a helpful decision matrix for designing community solar programs.

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Video:
New Tools to Accelerate Solar ... New Tools to Accelerate Solar Deployment
Author:  ISC

Tools to expand into new markets, including the Solar Finance Simulator, a community solar Business Case Tool, and a system sizing tool.

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Video:
Solar Finance Simulator Tutori... Solar Finance Simulator Tutorial
Author:  MREA

This tutorial shows how to use the Solar Finance Simulator to simulate long-term financial forecasting for PV investments.