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Working with Utilities to Access and Implement Renewables

Browse these resources to help you better understand how to navigate utility, regulatory, and policy barriers related to renewable energy. It is important to engage your utility when working toward renewable energy goals for several reasons. First, they can help you understand any limitations on the size or type of system you may be able to install on-site—such as net metering regulation. Second, many utilities offer incentives or special programs to encourage the adoption of renewable energy technologies. Third, your utility or retail energy provider may offer green power purchase options that can support your renewable energy goals. Use the tools and resources below to learn how to communicate with and utilize your utilities and then check out real-world examples of the role that local utilities can play in implementing renewables.

tools and resources


DSIRE’s State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency
Online Database
A list of the incentives and policies for renewables and energy efficiency by state.

ACEEE’s State and Local Renewable Energy Policies
Online Database
This database from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) details city-level renewable energy goals, policies on on-site renewable energy steams, solar and/or EV ordinances, and renewable energy efforts from various energy utilities. 

Renewable Energy Policies by State
DSIRE’s Policy Maps
Resource Hub
Certain states do not allow for third-party sales of electricity (such as PPAs) by law or regulation and have varying net metering policies that can affect the economic viability of solar projects. These policy summary maps can help you determine which laws apply in your state.


What are Time-Based Rate Programs?
SmartGrid’s Overview and Key Terms
Guidance Document
These materials detail the various methods of pricing that may apply to the rates your utility charges you for electricity use.

How to Evaluate Your Utility Rate Options
DOE’s Guide to Understanding Electricity Use and Cost
Guidance Document
This resource is designed to help federal and other public-sector customers better understand their current electricity rates and perform a short self-audit to determine if there are other options that could result in savings.


Tax Incentives for Solar PV
An Overview of Federal Investment Tax Credits for Residential and Commercial Solar
Resource Hub 
The 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC) is among the most important incentives currently available for solar PV. 

Reducing Peak Demand with Demand-Side Management
U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Cost and Savings from 2014-2017 
Learn about how utilities create programs to reduce the peak on their systems, which can be a financial opportunity for dispatchable renewable energy projects

DOE’s Options for Demand Response
Guidance Document
Learn about the existing options for reducing peak demand charges.

Explore Solar Energy Rebates and Incentives from SEIA
Resource Hub
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) explains the applicability of the investment tax credit (ITC) to various solar projects.

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Incentives
Congressional Research Services’ Summary of Federal Programs
Guidance Document
A comprehensive list of the assistance that each federal agency makes available for renewable energy and energy efficiency, from the Congressional Research Service.

EPA’s Renewable Energy Certificate Overview
What a REC is, How it Works, and More
Guidance Document
Learn how a renewable energy asset owner can generate and utilize RECs.

What are the Differences Between RECs and Offsets?
The Green Power Partnership’s Overview
Guidance Document
This guide explains the differences between RECs and Offsets.


The Basics of Net Metering
NREL Explains the Background, Benefits, Challenges, and Design
Guidance Document
Net energy metering (NEM), commonly referred to as net metering, is a metering and billing arrangement designed to compensate distributed energy generation (DG) system owners for any generation that is exported to the utility grid.

Interconnection and Interoperability of Distributed Energy Resources with Associated Electric Power Systems
IEEE Standard 1547a-2020
This standard focuses on the technical specifications for and testing of the interconnection between utility electric power systems (EPSs) and distributed energy resources (DERs) like renewables. 

What is Virtual Net Metering?
Solar Review’s Guide to VNM and Who Benefits
Guidance Document
Virtual Net Metering (VNM) is a system of distributing energy credits among members or subscribers of a shared solar array (often known as a community solar farm).

Enhanced Integration with the Grid
NREL/IEEE’s 1574 and 2030 Standards
The IEEE 1547 series of standards has helped shape the way utilities and other businesses have worked together to realize increasing amounts of distributed energy resources (DERs) interconnected with the distribution grid. More recently, the IEEE 2030 series of standards is helping to increase the use of communications and information technologies that can enhance the integration of DERs with the grid.

An Introduction to Grid Services
NREL Explains Concepts, Technical Requirements, and Provision for Wind
As the role of wind energy grows in the U.S. power grid, there is increased interest and requirement for it to provide “essential reliability” services. These services are critical to maintaining the reliability and stability of the grid. This report examines wind's potential in supporting the grid.

partner solutions and case studies

Better Buildings partners share their proven and replicable renewable energy solutions. Read more about each solution below.

On-Campus Solar Energy and Storage
Chesapeake College
This small college in Maryland partnered with its utility to implement a 1.8 MW ground and carport-based installation that was interconnected to the grid. The utility initially denied the request, but the two parties reached a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Establishing an Active Peak Load Management Program
Implementation Model
WashREIT piloted and deployed a new EMIS program across its portfolio to monitor market data and property energy load profiles in real-time.

Find Solutions to Other Common Renewable Energy Barriers: