Portland, OR – With one solar panel in the state for every nine people, Oregon remained in the middle of the pack of states in an annual ranking of solar power capacity, despite having the technical potential to produce 141 times as much electricity from solar power as the state consumes each year.
In this year’s ranking, Oregon stayed at 21st in total solar capacity and fell from 14th to 17th in total solar capacity per capita.
Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center’s new study, Lighting the Way 4: The Top States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2015, shows the states who ranked the highest for solar per capita were those with policies that allow increasing numbers of homeowners, businesses, communities and utilities to “go solar,” not necessarily the ones with the most sunshine.
“The question is: will Oregon capitalize on the growing clean energy economy with more clean energy and more local jobs,” said Charlie Fisher, clean energy advocate with Environment Oregon. “We’ve got plenty of sunshine but we need leadership at all levels with a commitment to policies that support homegrown solar energy.”
The study’s top states for solar capacity per capita -- Nevada, Hawaii, California, Arizona, North Carolina, New Jersey, Vermont, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Colorado – have for years held in common pro-solar policies, such as strong net metering programs and interconnection standards.
Despite attacks by major utilities, many pro-solar policies remain in the 10 leading-edge states, who make up 88 percent of the nation’s solar capacity but less than a third of its population. All have renewable energy requirements, for example, and nine have strong laws to allow solar customers to connect to the electricity grid.
While Oregon saw continued solar power growth during 2015, and the passage of a landmark clean energy law earlier this year, key solar incentives, like the Residential Energy Tax Credit, are up for extension in 2017, and state leaders have not yet signaled a strong intention to renew them.
In Oregon, small businesses, local elected officials, and average citizens are all lined up behind stronger solar policies, which will help slash global warming pollution. In the past several years, more than 100 businesses and more than 40 elected leaders have called on state leaders to support strong solar policies.