Roadblocks created by electric utilities and policymakers impede solar progress through delays, increased costs.
Minneapolis, Minn. (December 16, 2021) — New research from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) shows that electric utilities and state and local policymakers are hampering growth of solar energy in the United States through unnecessary delays and increased costs. If these issues are not resolved, communities stand to miss out on the job-creating and money-saving benefits of bringing solar to more people, including working class families, people of color, and rural households.
In 2021, ILSR surveyed solar developers across the country to identify issues and challenges facing local solar projects, and to determine how the actions of policymakers and utilities are impacting the growth of local solar. The findings from these survey responses and interviews are analyzed in a new report: 2021 Local Solar Developer Survey.
Survey respondents identified several sources of unforeseen delays and costs for distributed solar development. Many of these challenges were related to state interconnection policies and utility interconnection practices, which control how distributed solar systems connect to the larger energy grid.
- A majority of survey participants experienced project setbacks due to challenges interconnecting solar systems to the electric grid.
- Just over three quarters of respondents reported unexpected delays and/or costs as a result of changes to state interconnection policies.
- 85 percent of respondents reported unexpected delays and/or costs as a result of utility noncompliance with state interconnection policies.
In addition to interconnection challenges, other common solar roadblocks encountered by survey respondents included project queue issues, engineering study requirements, program capacity limits, unfair solar rates, and local permitting and regulations. These barriers have had a notable impact on solar developer respondents, their customers, and may be affecting the broader solar industry, as well. Survey respondents reported unexpected costs and delays affecting thousands of solar projects in total.
In some cases, solar developers suggested that utilities might be intentionally holding back the growth of distributed solar installations by exceeding state-mandated interconnection timelines, subverting state policies to create unnecessary roadblocks, and wielding political influence. The context of this survey is particularly important: unlike choices consumers might have in buying cars or home improvements, customers cannot pick which city will issue the permit nor which utility will connect their solar project.
John Farrell, director of ILSR’s Energy Democracy initiative, said, “Solar power is increasingly popular in the United States, and increased local solar options would put more benefits directly in the hands of individuals. Our survey of solar developers found that, rather than meeting this need, utilities and policymakers are often standing in the way of local solar growth. We must resolve these barriers in order to connect all Americans to an energy option that will save them money, create jobs, and help reduce pollution.”
About the Institute for Local Self-Reliance:
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has a vision of thriving, equitable communities. We are a national research and advocacy organization that partners with allies across the country to build an American economy driven by local priorities and accountable to people and the planet. ILSR.org
About John Farrell:
John Farrell is the Director of the Energy Democracy initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Farrell is a nationally recognized renewable energy expert and is the author of analyses that detail how to ensure that renewable technologies are available to every member of society. He has advised communities across the country on how best to establish their community-owned renewable resources and shares his expertise on radio and in print.
FOR MORE INFORMATION and to schedule an interview with Farrell, email firstname.lastname@example.org.