The Northeast Solar Coalition (NSC) is a partnership of state and regional solar organizations representing more than 500 solar businesses in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It aims to create sustainable growth across the region’s solar PV markets by informing policy and market development through analysis, education, and collaboration among member organizations. The Pace Energy and Climate Center supports the NSC and works with state and regional solar advocates and business associations, energy industry finance institutions, environmental and sustainability non-governmental organizations, and electric utility providers to identify and engage with critical market policy initiatives, communicate best practices to regional and national audiences, and provide clarity and market certainty for existing and future solar businesses in the region.
As a first step toward harmonizing regional policy, the team built a database to assess the solar policy and market landscape in the region, compile baseline state-level policy data, and build state-by-state comparative tables for the nine northeastern states represented in the coalition. The team used this database to track on-going legislative, regulatory, and other solar market initiatives across the region.
Building upon the database, NSC members prioritized the coalition’s policy and market engagement and developed a breakdown of the fundamental solar-related policies for high-functioning solar markets. NSC also analyzed how each state was addressing those policies. Members used this research to compare policies across the states and to help craft their organizational strategies. This research was compiled into Top Solar Policy fact sheets.
Using the Top Solar Policy fact sheets as a guide, along with member knowledge and experiences within their respective states, NSC identified four policy areas requiring particular attention: interconnection, green bank financing, municipal permitting, and solar valuation. These areas were selected based on their relative importance to each state’s solar energy markets and their potential for meaningful regional harmonization.
The NSC team developed outreach and education plans for each of these policy areas. For the topic of financing, NSC collaborated with the Union of Concerned Scientists to investigate the benefits of expanding clean energy financing in the Northeast. The analysis shows how the states could expand clean energy financing programs to make additional low-interest loans available to homeowners, businesses, and municipalities interested in energy efficiency improvements, installation of solar panels, or investment in other types of clean energy projects.
For interconnection, the coalition engaged stakeholders participating in interconnection working groups, such as in Massachusetts’ Technical Standards Review Group, to evaluate the potential regional applicability of their work. NSC is taking a critical look at how nine different electric utility companies operating in the Northeast address five particular interconnection policy areas and plan to produce a report in mid-2017.
NSC is focusing on two opportunities to prove that streamlining municipal permitting can benefit municipalities, installers, and end users. A demonstration project is being planned in a Connecticut regional government setting, and state officials in Rhode Island are attempting to pass a statewide permitting mandate.
NSC launched the Value of Solar Center of Excellence Website, a reference library that provides information about the resource valuation issues. Featured resources include Achieving Very High PV Penetration: The Need for an Effective Electricity Remuneration Framework and a Central Role for Grid Operators and Value of Solar Tariff Pilot Design Elements, an educational document containing key design elements and sample language for legislation and methodology that explains the benefits of the value of solar tariff.