Clean energy journalism for a cooler tomorrow

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How does your state rank on fostering community-led clean energy?

Policies can help or hinder communities that want to take charge of their own energy future. Canary’s chart of the week shows how U.S. states stack up.
By Maria Virginia Olano

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Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

Communities around the U.S. are taking the lead to build clean energy projects designed to benefit their own residents, as we’ve been reporting this week in our series Power by the People: Clean Energy from the Grassroots. But some kinds of community-led clean-energy efforts can only succeed if the right policies are in place, and policies vary widely from state to state. So which states are most effectively supporting communities in their quest for clean energy? California and Massachusetts top the list, according to a scorecard from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, while Kentucky and Louisiana are at the bottom.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has assigned each state a community power score from A to F based on whether it has 10 different kinds of policies that support local clean energy. The scorecard gives the greatest weight to four types of policies: community choice aggregation, shared renewables, net metering, and carve-outs for distributed energy and solar in renewable portfolio standards. States get points docked if they have passed laws prohibiting cities and counties from banning gas hookups in new construction, as 20 states have done.

Community choice aggregators are local government bodies that procure electricity for residents and usually offer cleaner and/​or cheaper power than investor-owned utilities. Currently, 10 states have policies that allow community choice aggregators to operate. As of 2020, Illinois and Massachusetts had the largest shares of residents served by community choice aggregators, followed by Ohio and California.

A range of policies can enable community solar and other types of shared renewables. Massachusetts and New York rank the highest for making shared renewables projects possible.

Many states have renewable portfolio standards, also known as clean energy standards, which require that increasing percentages of electricity come from renewables. The scorecard gives states credit if their standards require a certain portion of that clean power to come from solar or distributed generation sources; such requirements are called carve-outs. Vermont, Maryland, Oregon and Nevada rank high on this metric.

States also earn points if they have customer-friendly” net-metering policies, which make it easier and more lucrative for rooftop solar owners to share power with the grid.

All in all, write the report authors, 4 states excelled, 9 states and the District of Columbia saw above-average scores, 9 were average, 15 were mediocre, and 13 states received failing grades.”

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Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.