US Breakthrough: State Solar Associations Call for Feed-in Tariffs

By Paul Gipe


In a breakthrough for renewable energy advocates, state solar industry associations have jointly called for widespread adoption of feed-in tariffs in the US.

The dramatic move continues the steady erosion of the one-time dominance of the North American solar industry by companies opposed to feed-in tariffs. Because of this opposition, the national trade group, the Solar Energy Industries Association, has yet to take a formal position calling for feed-in tariffs. The American Solar Energy Society, representing the professional and academic community, also has not taken a position.

However, the Canadian Solar Energy Industries Association has endorsed the use of feed-in tariffs and the Solar Alliance, the US industry trade association for solar PV manufacturers and project developers, has published a position paper saying feed-in tariffs are one of many policies that can be used to develop solar energy.

The action in support of feed-in tariffs was taken at a meeting of state solar industry representatives at the recent Intersolar conference in San Francisco.

The Intersolar event, a companion to the huge solar trade fair in Munich, has become not only a draw for the solar industry, but also for solar energy activists across the country. During the same week as Intersolar, Pacific Environment organized a packed one-day conference on feed-in tariffs and the Sierra Club’s Kern-Kaweah chapter organized a one-day technical workshop on how to set feed-in tariff prices at the club’s national headquarters.

The importance of the move by state solar associations will not be lost on industry observers in and outside North America and could signal a renewed push for feed-in tariffs at both the national and state levels.

Because of the significance of the statement made by the solar associations at Intersolar, I am including their release in its entirety.



San Francisco, July 19, 2010


State and regional solar industry associations call for broad adoption of Feed-in Tariffs in U.S.

At a meeting of representatives of the state and regional solar industry associations at InterSolar North America, the premier solar industry exhibition and conference held in San Francisco this week, the state solar industry associations agreed that it is time for Feed-in Tariffs, the policies that have proved to be wildly successful in Europe in accelerating the growth of solar and other renewables, to be adopted widely in the U.S. The consensus among state and regional solar industry associations from across the country was that the time for Feed-in Tariffs to be adopted widely in the U.S. is long overdue.

“The growth of solar in the U.S. in recent years has been spurred by state-level policy initiatives”, said Sue Kateley, Executive Director of CalSEIA (California). “State and regional solar industry associations have been at the forefront of creating, and advocating for, these policies. CalSEIA’s membership includes international, national and local solar companies doing business in California.

“The time is right to accelerate the use of renewable energy in the U.S.”, said Gary Gerber, President of CalSEIA. President Obama called for determined action to end reliance on fossil fuels. States can take action now. States can grow local renewable industry businesses and create local jobs. Feed in tariffs are simple, easy to use, stable, and effectively driven the costs of renewables down quickly.”

Feed-in Tariffs are in place in approximately 64 jurisdictions throughout the world, and have been responsible for the creation of the largest and fastest-growing solar markets, like Germany and Italy. According to a recent report by the European Commission, “well-adapted feed-in tariff regimes are generally the most efficient and effective support schemes for promoting renewable electricity”(1). According to Mark Fulton, Managing Director, Global Head of Climate Change Investment Research for DB Climate Change Advisors, “There is strong evidence that Advanced Feed-in Tariff (FiT) programs that exhibit Transparency, Longevity and Certainty (TLC) can clearly reduce project risk, allow renewable energy developers to obtain a lower cost of capital, and create new jobs” A recent report by DB Climate Change Advisors states, “Indeed, we believe that Lord Stern’s view that feed-in tariffs ‘achieve larger deployment at lower costs’ has a lot of merit”(2,3).

In August of 2009, the California Legislature overwhelmingly approved SB 32, which authorized the California Public Utilities Commission to implement a statewide Feed in Tariff for projects less than 3 megawatts, with a total program cap of 750 megawatts. According to Ms. Kateley, “The design of the program will encourage local projects at residential, commercial, and municipal sites. This will create construction jobs for solar companies throughout California”. Several other U.S. states are developing Feed-in Tariff programs.

“Oregon launched its version of the Feed-in Tariff on July 1, and the initial allocation was fully subscribed in less than 15 minutes,” claimed Glenn Montgomery, Executive Director of OSEIA (Oregon). “The demand is clearly present.”

Experience with Feed-in Tariffs has been contrasted with incentive systems based on tradable market commodities. “Reports by such entities as Ernst & Young, the International Energy Agency, and our own National Renewable Energy Agency have indicated that Feed-in Tariffs have been more successful than incentives based on tradable market commodities at achieving renewable energy goals in Europe. Furthermore, they have done so at a lower cost”, said Lyle Rawlings, President of MSEIA (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware). “In New Jersey, the second-largest solar market in the U.S., a tradable market commodity system of incentives was adopted that has driven up the cost of solar power to more than double the cost that a Feed-in Tariff would produce, while falling about 50% short of the legislated goals for solar”.

“A Feed-in Tariff can work as a highly effective complement to many other existing solar policies, including net metering, and serve as a means of achieving many existing state renewable portfolio standards”, said Janet Gagnon, a Board member of COSEIA (Colorado). “Even in jurisdictions where Feed-in Tariffs are not favored due to electric market structure similar policy structures often can be implemented.” said John Hoffner, President of TXSEIA (Texas). An example in Texas comes from CPS Energy, a municipal utility serving the City of San Antonio, which recently opened its Solartricity program offering solar developers long-term contracts for clean energy produced.

Feed in Tariffs complement existing policy initiatives and fill a policy gap that currently exists for local solar generation plants. Feed in tariffs support strong acceleration in the solar energy market and rapid achievement of state-level goals, while keeping the costs of solar power relatively low without compromising safety and reliability, and promoting diversity in the industry. “These goals – rapid acceleration toward the state solar targets, achieving cost reductions that benefit ratepayers, safety and reliability, and maintaining diversity of business opportunity and customer segments served – are the goals that our industry members want us to achieve”, said Mr. Rawlings.

According to Ms. Kateley, “If Feed-in Tariffs can be adopted widely in the U.S., we have the opportunity to re-take the lead in the world in transforming energy markets to clean, renewable energy.”

For additional information contact Sue Kateley at 916-747-6987,

1. Commission of the European Communities, COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT:The support of electricity from renewable energy sources, Jan. 1, 2008

2. Deutsche Bank Group/DB Climate Change Advisors, Deutsche Bank Global Climate Change Policy Tracker: An Investor’s Assessment – October, 2009

3. Lord Nicholas Stern, The Economics of Climate Change, p. 366.