One of the largest incentives to “go solar” is probably the least known.
The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) isn’t a cash-to-buy program.In fact, it doesn’t even involve consumers — at least not directly.Still, depending on where you live, the RPS program can cut yourup-front cost of installing solar panels by thousands of dollars.
Many states have implemented some form of RPS to smooth the economictransition to renewable energy sources and cut GHG emissions. In anutshell: utilities that generate electricity are given a specificnumber of years to increase their use of renewable energy sources.
Utilities in Arizona, for example, have until 2025 to get 15% oftheir electricity from renewable sources. That puts us about in themiddle of the pack in terms of how aggressively we’re pursuing a change.
How utilities reach these mandated numbers is determined largely bygeography. Different renewable energy sources are found in differentlocations. That’s why you find large wind farms being planned in theMidwest and massive solar projects here in the Southwest.
As part of the RPS, many states mandate or encourage small-scale energy production (distributed generation).
A home with solar panels on the roof is one of the best examples ofdistributed generation. When electricity produced on your roof isallowing you to watch Stephen Colbert face down a Formidable Opponent,no energy is lost traveling long distances over high power lines. Italso reduces the need for building and maintaining expensive high powerlines (that can create environmental problems of their own).
Here’s how an RPS works directly for you: If your utility company is going to meet its mandate, it needs youto install solar power or some other renewable form of electricity. Butthe upfront cost of putting a solar array on your roof still challengesmost of our budgets. We’re talking in the $20-$30,000 range. To enticeyou over that range, utilities are willing to pay a cash incentive. InPhoenix at the moment, my provider, APS, is paying $3.00/watt. So the3.1 kW system I’ve got my eye on (one of several systems I’mconsidering) would put over $9,000 back in my pocket.
Here’s the latest list of states offering with mandated RPS programs. (For more information go to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.)