How to Research Your State’s Policies Around Renewable Energy
In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to researching state policies concerning renewable energy in the United States, helping to outline the importance of the policies, incentives, and regulations around renewable energy in your state and identifying various useful sources for you to conduct your research.
These sources include: checking your state's government website, looking for renewable energy incentives and programs, contacting your state's energy office, and contacting local renewable energy organizations.
We’ll also highlight the role companies like SunPower play in helping homeowners transition to clean energy and conclude by stressing the importance of individual choice in supporting renewable energy policies and the collective move towards a more sustainable future.
But first, let’s establish what we mean by renewable energy.
What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy, often referred to as clean energy, is energy generated from sources that can be constantly replenished. In this way, they are different from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, which are finite and major contributors to global climate change. Switching to renewable energy sources offers a more sustainable, cleaner future for our energy usage with less impact on our planet.
Generally, we use “renewable energy” as a catch-all term. There are different renewable energy sources with their relative pros and cons, including solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass, and geothermal energy.
Related reading: Complete Guide To 7 Renewable Energy Sources
Is the U.S. embracing renewable technology?
Renewable energy is not just a buzzword.
It's a beacon guiding us toward a future where we reduce our dependence on finite resources like fossil fuels, minimize our environmental footprint, and create a more sustainable world through our choices.
Here in the U.S., we’re beginning to embrace renewable sources of energy. According to BP, solar energy is America’s fastest-growing power source, making up more than 40% of all new electricity generating capacity. Experts suggest U.S. solar capacity will quadruple in the next decade.
Rising electricity prices can explain part of the switch to solar power and other renewable energy sources due to various external factors. Across the U.S., electricity prices rose 14% in 2022. This highlights the economic need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels in addition to any environmental impact.
In response, Forbes reports that the renewable sector is set for a feeding frenzy of investment. The president’s administration has allocated hundreds of billions of dollars in new subsidies designed to incentivize renewable energy projects and meet clean energy goals.
This federal action includes:
Tax exemptions for those using renewable energy sources
Renewed energy policy goals, including a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
Investment in clean energy technologies to boost the clean energy sector
Investment in alternative fuels
Yet, over and above any federal action, your state also has the power to implement its own renewable energy policy.
What’s the difference between national and state-level policy?
Despite the optimism and encouragement at the federal policy level, there isn’t nationwide alignment on the issue. Different states have different stances and policies on renewable energy adoption. This makes it important for you to understand your state’s policies around renewable energy production.
What are examples of state-level renewable energy policies?
How well do you understand your local incentives for energy efficiency and regulations promoting renewable energy development? As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. And in this case, that power is renewable.
Policies, regulations, and incentives surrounding renewable energy projects vary significantly by state. The U.S. Constitution empowers states to make decisions about energy policies, including:
Setting renewable energy laws and targets
Regulating public utilities, cooperative utilities, and investor-owned utilities
Enforcing renewable energy requirements on businesses
Offering incentives like renewable energy credits for clean energy adoption
California is a pioneer in renewable energy policy and is one of the so-called “clean energy states.” The state recently implemented a policy mandating a 100% clean energy grid. The bill calls for California’s electricity system to become entirely carbon-free by 2045.
This means California must sustain its clean electricity generation capacity expansion at a record-breaking rate for the next 25 years to meet clean energy targets. As part of the drive, there are various financial incentives to encourage homeowners and businesses to achieve these objectives.
Under state net metering laws, any solar homeowner will receive bill credits for their extra solar power from their utility. The capacity limit is 5 percent of aggregate customer peak demand for California's net metering program.
The Solar Rights Act (CA Civil Code 714) bars restrictions by homeowners associations (HOAs) on the installation of solar-energy systems. And under AB 634 of 2017, HOAs are prohibited from requiring a vote of homeowners to approve residential solar installs.
The state of New York offers a personal tax credit on residential solar panel installations that is worth 25% of the total system cost, or a maximum of $5,000. The system must be installed and used at your principal residence in New York State.
The New York State Solar Program (NY-Sun) works directly with solar contractors and developers to offset the cost for New York residents to go solar. NY-Sun offers additional incentives to some homeowners through Affordable Solar, which increases the amount received for households earning less than 80 percent of the median income in the area.
Residents of New York also benefit from a state-enacted net metering policy. Any credits for excess solar power can be used in future months if your solar energy system produces less electricity.
The Oregon Solar + Storage Rebate Program issues rebates for solar electric systems and paired solar and storage systems for residential customers and low-income service providers in Oregon. Rebates for homeowners are up to 40% of the net cost, with higher amounts (up to 60%) for low- or moderate-income customers.
If you’re a customer of Salem Electric, you can receive a rebate equal to $300 per kW installed, up to the lesser of 50% of project costs or $1,500.
Additionally, thanks to Oregon’s net metering policies, you’ll receive full credit on your utility electric bills for the extra electricity that your solar panels generate.
Texas produces more wind energy than any other state, and rivals California for solar production. As of Q3 2023, Texas is the second highest state for solar power generation with 20.02 gigawatts (GW) of solar installed, enough to power over 2.3 million homes.
While there’s no statewide solar tax credit or solar rebate program, Texas does have a renewable energy property tax exemption so that residents don’t pay extra taxes as a result of the value that their solar panels add.
Additionally, Texans who go solar are protected by a solar rights law that prevents HOAs from banning solar energy systems on their properties.
If you live in Austin, you can get a solar rebate of $2,500. Plus, you may be eligible for Austin Energy’s Value of Solar Tariff, which pays you $0.097 for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) your solar panels can generate.
Washington has a statewide net metering policy. Homeowners who create excess energy through solar power can sell their excess energy back to their utility company for credits, only being billed for the net if generating less than they consume.
Thanks to solar easement laws in Washington, you can work with your neighbors to make sure that nothing shades your solar panel system while the sun is shining. And with Washington’s solar rights law, your homeowners’ association can’t prohibit you from installing solar panels on your home.
All Floridians who put solar on their roof are exempt from sales tax as well as an increase in property tax from added home value. Solar equipment must be certified by Florida Solar Energy Center.
Net metering is available in Florida to customers who generate electricity using solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, biomass energy, ocean energy, hydrogen, waste heat or hydroelectric power.
How to understand your state’s usage of renewable energy
A crucial part of supporting renewable energy in your state involves understanding its current usage. This knowledge can help contextualize your state's energy policies and aid you in measuring progress over time. It also indicates the progress renewable energy advocates have made in helping shape various states’ usages.
Let’s take a look at two additional examples:
Vermont - In Vermont, almost 100% of in-state electricity net generation was derived from renewable resources in 2020 and 2021, which indicates Vermont's commitment to renewable energy. Much of this is due to the state’s many hydroelectric plants and its dedication to biomass as an energy source. Solar energy is another crucial part of Vermont's renewable energy mix, accounting for 16% of the state's total in-state net generation in 2021. The state drives clean energy through policies encouraging small-scale, local solar projects, encouraging ordinary Vermonters to get involved.
Iowa - Iowa's impressive wind power production showcases its dedication to renewable energy. In 2021, nearly 60% of Iowa's total electricity net generation came from wind farms across the state. This ranks Iowa as the second-largest wind power producer in the nation.
To get a quick, similar overview of your state’s energy usage, follow these steps:
Visit the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) website. The EIA provides a state-by-state energy profile with a simple, easy-to-grasp overview. These overviews include data on energy production and consumption from various sources.
Check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE). This resource offers comprehensive information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Beyond checking for an overview of your state’s energy usage, it’s important to note that you can advocate for renewable energy policies and make informed decisions about your personal energy use at the state level by:
Supporting local companies that prioritize renewable energy
Getting involved with legislative actions that aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions
Voting for pro-renewable energy policies in the state legislature
Installing a solar energy system in your home with SunPower.
Remember that every step you take matters. Together, we can help make a difference for our planet.
Tips for researching state-level renewable energy policies
If you want more than an overview of your state’s energy usage and renewable energy policies, follow these tips to conduct a more in-depth analysis.
Check your state’s government website
The first step in your research should be to check your state's government website. Reflecting the growing importance of climate change policies, these websites often dedicate whole sections to renewable energy. On these pages, you’ll discover information on policies, programs, and incentives for business owners and homeowners.
Look for renewable energy incentives and programs
Several states offer incentives and programs to promote renewable energy adoption. These range from tax credits and grants to loan programs and rebates. Understanding these programs can benefit individuals and businesses interested in switching to renewable energy.
Contact your state’s energy office for information
Why not go right to the source? If you have questions about policy in your state, helpful advisors are usually available to help. Your state's energy office can be an excellent resource for more detailed information on everything they can offer regarding incentives or programs.
Check with local renewable energy organizations
Local renewable energy organizations can also be a valuable resource. These organizations can provide reliable information and interpretation of state policies and programs and connect individuals and businesses with resources and support.
Check SunPower’s state-by-state breakdown
Renewable energy providers will often host useful information on each state’s policies as a valuable resource for potential customers. SunPower offers breakdowns on solar power for every state in the U.S.
As part of these breakdowns, SunPower summarizes the financial incentives1 available to those wanting to switch. Here’s an example of what you can find in Massachusetts:
Federal Solar Tax Credit: Homeowners who buy a solar system instead of leasing it can get a tax credit of up to 30% of the total cost of installation.1
Massachusetts Personal Income Tax Credit: The state tax credit reimburses you for $1,000 or 15% of the installation costs for solar panels on a qualified property.1
Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART): This program incentivizes residents to go solar by paying solar owners for each kW produced. Only Eversource, National Grid, and Until customers can benefit from the SMART program.1
Net Metering: Under this program set up by local utility companies, you will receive monthly electricity bill credits for any excess power your solar system produces that can divert to the main electricity grid.2
Variations of these incentives exist in different forms across many states in the U.S. Check out SunPower’s other breakdowns for detailed information on where you live.
Other sources of information
You can find plenty of other government-affiliated or thought leadership organizations online to help you research renewable energy production, whether you're curious about renewable fuels, nuclear energy, geothermal energy, carbon pricing, or any other clean energy-related topic!
National Renewable Energy Laboratory - A government-ran research and development center.
North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center - The NCCETC tracks legislative and regulatory activity on solar, grid modernization, energy storage, and electric vehicles nationwide in its 50 States' quarterly reports.
National Conference of State Legislatures - A source of legislative news across all states.
United States Department of Energy - A hub for valuable information, including a renewable energy quarterly report. Read this latest report examining the need for a Clean Energy Standard (CES) to help the U.S. reach clean energy goals post-2035.
North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) - You can read more about the regulatory and oversight processes related to the reliability of our grid.
Understanding your state’s renewable energy policies
Understanding and supporting your state's renewable energy policies is crucial for a more sustainable future. You can personally impact our collective environmental trajectory by making informed choices and advocating for greener policies.
Remember, every renewable energy choice is a step toward a more sustainable tomorrow. Let's embrace this change together and strive for a world where clean energy is within everyone's reach.
Ready to learn more about how you can power your home with clean, renewable solar energy?
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1 Federal and state tax credits and local incentives vary and are subject to change. SunPower does not warrant, guarantee or otherwise advise its customers about specific tax outcomes. Consult your tax advisor regarding these solar tax credits and how they apply to your specific circumstances. You can also visit the dsireusa.org website for information on incentives available in your area.
2 The availability of net metering varies by location and is subject to change. Your SunPower Dealer can help you determine if you qualify. You can also visit the dsireusa.org website for detailed solar policy information.