Lighting the Path to a Brighter Future


With so many attention-grabbing headlines coming from sunny places like Nevada, Arizona, California, and Hawaii, one could easily be led to think that’s where all of the solar power action is in the United States. Not true! In fact, solar power is steadily gaining ground in all corners of the country. Consider, for example, the groundbreaking work (pun intended!) that is happening through the Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Market Pathways (SMP) program. The goal of SMP is to catalyze the creation and replication of successful solar deployment plans in communities across the U.S. It is just one part of DOE’s broader SunShot Initiative, which aims to make solar power cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of this decade.

DOE kicked off the SMP program in January 2015 when it selected 14 projects scattered across the country for federal funding. After the first year and a half of this three-year program, progress is already evident. For example, one project has resulted in the creation of the Northeast Solar Energy Market Coalition, a partnership of solar organizations representing more than 500 businesses in nine Northeast states. Another project assessed the suitability for solar deployment of every land parcel in Cook County, Illinois, along with every rooftop in the City of Chicago. A third project made Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (or C-PACE) financing available in Utah. These are but three examples. We don’t have the space here to tout the good work being done in each project, but details are available on the SMP website.

RAP supports SMP as a member of the National Coordination Team, led by the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC). The National Coordination team supports all 14 SMP projects by providing technical assistance and opportunities for peer learning and exchange, and by helping the projects to disseminate their best practices and lessons learned. For example, RAP assembled a toolkit for the SMP program on Working with Utilities to Advance Solar. This toolkit is designed to provide guidance and resources that will help customers, third party solar vendors, and non-utility solar program or project managers to engage and collaborate with electric utilities to accelerate solar deployment and derive maximum value from solar resources. To achieve these goals, it is necessary to understand how utilities operate, how they are regulated, what motivates them, and how distributed solar resources affect the utility. With that understanding in hand, all of the parties will be better able to collaborate in the pursuit of solutions that serve the interests of all affected stakeholders.

Watch this space over the coming year for more SMP updates. We’ll try to share some of the most significant “lessons learned” about regulatory policy along with new resources of interest to regulators, utilities, and other solar power stakeholders.