Politicians and utilities, among other industry stakeholders, are increasingly seeing the benefits of solar energy to the longevity of our nation’s energy supply. There are a number of economic benefits, including low maintenance costs and tax credits, that continue to make this renewable energy source an attractive option. As a result, state legislation has been drafted and signed into law at an increasing rate in order to foster the development of a robust solar industry. In 2015, there have already been several important strides in making solar more accessible to customers in Maryland, DC, Delaware, and Virginia communities.
In February 2015, MDV-SEIA worked with Maryland legislators Victor Ramirez and Luke Clippinger on HB1087 and SB481, which would create a three-year pilot program and allow community solar energy generating systems under the Maryland Public Service Commission (MD PSC).
The PSC will be responsible for the structure of the program which includes electricity generation and cost allocation.1 MDV-SEIA, along with PSC staff, the Maryland Energy Administration, and other energy experts, will provide recommendations to the PSC regarding the program structure. Community solar participants will receive the benefits of solar energy without having the system located directly on their rooftop.
This is an opportunity to provide solar energy for the large number of residents in Maryland who otherwise would not have this option due to roof shading, or other structural and financial constraints. This bill was signed into law by Governor Hogan after receiving bipartisan support and will be valuable to the implementation of solar into Maryland’s energy grid.
Photo Credit: Earth Justice
A related piece of legislation also introduced in February, the Solar Access Rights Establishment Act, intends to expand the rights of property owners in Washington D.C. who have already installed, or plan to install, a solar energy system. As the name implies, the bill creates solar access rights for residents by stating that systems cannot be obstructed “by any structure or vegetation that was not present or obstructive on or before January 1, 2014.”2 It will require certification to be submitted by applicants to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) before a building or construction permit is acquired in order to increase the height of a building. If the DCRA finds that the increased height would obstruct property owners’ solar access right, then the applicant must compensate the neighboring properties affected.2 This law will help many home and business owners in DC to protect their existing solar system from obstruction.
These two bills coincide with a pledge from the Energy Department of $32 million as part of an effort to train workers for the expanding solar industry. A trained solar workforce is imperative in order to develop and maintain our nation’s growing solar energy portfolio. In Maryland alone, it is projected that there will be 26% growth in the state solar workforce by the end of 2015; an additional 800 jobs. This pledge is important to sustain the increasing development and ensuing employment needs in the solar industry. Support from both the state and the federal government is spurring faster solar industry development, and ultimately providing a cleaner energy grid.