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Vote Solar and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) recently published report cards grading each state on policies related to net metering and interconnection—two measures that are critical in utilities allowing people to generate their own power.
California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Utah each received "A" grades in both categories of the seventh annual Freeing the Grid report. Only six states got an "A" in interconnection, including those four.
"These policies have long been the foundation of strong state solar markets, and that’s more true today than ever before," Vote Solar's Rosalind Jackson wrote in a statement. "Solar is increasingly affordable and incentive programs are winding down in many states ... It’s critical that we keep the way clear for more Americans to generate their own solar power. Strong net metering and interconnection procedures at the state level do just that."
About two-thirds of states got an A or B on net metering, which is defined by Vote Solar and IREC as a policy that ensures renewable energy customers receive full credit on their utility bills for clean power they put back on the grid. Washington DC and Minnesota both improved their net metering grades compared to last year, while no states declined since 2012.
"These policies allow individuals, businesses, schools and others to connect renewable energy systems to the grid under transparent terms and receive a fair credit for excess energy they produce while following practices of safety and reliability," IREC CEO Jane Weissman said.
Interconnection are rules that an energy customer must follow to be able to plug their renewable energy system into the grid, Jackson said.
"This process should be straightforward, transparent and fair," she said. "Our Freeing the Grid interconnection grading methodology was updated for 2013 to reflect current best practices."
The report singled out three states for worst practices—Arizona, Colorado and Idaho. Utilities in each of those states made proposals in 2013 to weaken net metering and/or assess new charges on customers who want to go solar. There were three "F" grades between the two categories—Oklahoma and Georgia in net metering and South Carolina in interconnection.
"We are in the midst of a transition to the era of mainstream renewables that gives Americans control over their power supply and energy bills like never before," Jackson said. "[The report] is designed to help policymakers and other stakeholders make better sense of best practices and what needs to be done in their own state to clear the way for a 21st-century approach to energy."
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
- Is California heading for another drought? - Los Angeles Times ›
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- California weather stays dry as rain and snow come up short | The ... ›
- California Emerged From Drought and Is Still Catching Fire - The ... ›
A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?