The U.S. accounts for 18 percent of the world’s energy consumption but has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. As such, there’s no question that renewable energy needs to be a major goal for the nation’s policy makers. But even in 2016, when solar power is more affordable than ever before, certain regional regulations are holding back solar development.
Here are 10 of the strangest solar policies that are hurting renewable energy efforts.
1. Oklahoma Charges Solar Users for Panels
Oklahoma residents with arrays installed after Nov. 1, 2014, could see an extra monthly fee on their power bill — a rate that power companies say covers the infrastructure costs needed to send the solar user’s excess electricity back to the electric grid. The law overturns a 1977 law aimed to prevent utility companies from charging additional rates to solar users.
2. North Carolina Town Bans Solar Farm
A North Carolina city council rejected plans for a solar farm in the city, fearful that solar panels would “suck up all the energy from the sun.” Residents from the town of Woodland voiced their concerns during a city council meeting, where they claimed a solar farm could kill off local plants or hurt the town’s economy. Woodland — which is already home to three solar farms — has since put a moratorium on future solar developments.
3. Communities Nationwide Enforce Sun Drying Restrictions
One of the cheapest ways to use the sun’s energy — hanging laundry on a clothesline to dry in the sunshine rather than in an electric dryer — has also become one of the most controversial. Many homeowners associations, gated communities, and retirement communities nationwide ban clotheslines, complaining that they hurt property values and obstruct views. Fortunately, there are currently several “Right to Dry” states that outlaw these bans.
4. Arizona Utility Company Bills Solar Users an Extra $50 per Month
Arizona is one of the states with the most solar panels in the nation, but a new utility rate increase may change that. Salt River Project, one of Arizona’s regional utility companies, charges solar users around $50 per month for partial reliance on the grid. The rate has already made quite an impact on the state’s solar providers — once the new fee hike was approved, applications for rooftop solar installations dropped around 96 percent.
5. Virginia Stalls on Solar Energy Development
Virginia is falling behind its clean energy neighbors. And though state leaders claim they are working to make progress on renewable energy efforts, over a dozen clean energy bills were tabled during the recent legislative session. Many of these bills — a few of which could have authorized low-interest financing programs for solar panels or created a new state consortium to promote the development of clean energy storage — won’t be addressed again until 2017.
6. Hawaii Ends Net Metering Policies
Hawaii, a state with historically ambitious solar policy development, has taken what some consider to be a big step backward by eliminating its net metering policy. Though the state is offering some alternative programs for new solar users, the benefits aren’t as substantial as they were with the previous policy. As a result, several panel installation companies are bracing for a sharp decline in array orders.
7. Nevada Solar Users’ Rates Triple
In sunny Nevada, the solar power market should be thriving. But the state’s Public Utilities Commission recently implemented a massive rate increase that could triple solar users’ monthly fees, saying that the money is needed for solar users to access the grid when the sun isn’t shining. The increase is also retroactive, meaning current solar customers who already installed solar panels will now pay inflated rates, too.
8. Alabama Power Lacks Public Oversight
A strict regulatory process for the Alabama Public Service Commission means the state’s major utility and energy plans are made behind closed doors. In an Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis report titled “Left in the Dark,” Alabama’s energy analysis and plans are described as “opaque.” The process gives taxpayers little space to review the state’s energy plans or submit commentary, which hinders the development of clean energy goals and solar initiatives.
9. Texas Restricts Government Support
Texas could be the largest solar power provider in the country, but thanks to poor public policy, the entire state has less solar power than overcast New York. There is no net metering, the government has no set standard for investing in solar energy, and legislators have tried to repeal the few sparse renewable energy efforts that still exist.
10. Florida Blocks Third-Party Solar Panel Agreements
Despite its moniker as the Sunshine State, Florida hasn’t been kind to solar efforts — local lawmakers have prevented the solar industry from thriving. One state law prohibits third-party power purchase agreements (PPAs) — a type of array financing that allows a developer to install solar panels for free and then sell the generated power to customers at a discounted rate. Without the option of a PPA, many homeowners are unable to afford an array.
While efforts to force customers to rely on traditional energy sources remain strong, clean and renewable solar energy can’t be stopped. Numerous states have actually blocked utility companies from charging fees to solar users, while other states have acted to protect critical net energy metering policies. Reach out to your local legislature to find out what you can do to help prioritize solar efforts in your area today.
Brooke Nally is the executive community manager with SolarPowerAuthority, a leading renewable energy and solar industry website.
Lead image credit: BlackRockSolar | Flickr