The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) has partnered with the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), Meister Consultants Group, Inc., and the Council of State Governments on the US Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge (RSCII) grant. This initiative seeks to: 1) reduce costs and improve efficiency of solar permitting process through regulatory reform, 2) increase access to low cost financing options, and 3) increase awareness and boost solar adoption and investment. To that end, OKI has partnered with a variety of local governments, utilities, businesses, and organizations to guide this initiative and develop a strategy of implementing a series of solar best management practices (BMPs) developed in the previous round of Solar Ready programming.
The solar industry is a rapidly growing market that can have positive impacts on the local economy and job market, provide a stable source of energy immune to traditional energy price volatility, increase property values, reduce electricity costs for homes, businesses, and governments, and augment utility energy needs during peak hours.
Despite the many benefits of solar energy, it faces key obstacles that include perceived high upfront costs and a low return on investment (ROI). The current cost of electricity from solar generation is still more expensive than retail electricity prices from other energy sources. Hardware costs of solar, such as solar and electrical equipment, continue to fall as solar becomes part of a larger market. However, the non-hardware costs, including soft costs such as permitting fees, labor costs, and financing costs, continue to keep the cost of solar energy relatively high.
Local governments can play a critical role in reducing these soft costs by streamlining and standardizing the permitting process and by providing accessible information to the public. Reducing upfront costs of solar projects can in turn improve the return on investment of the projects and help boost the market competitiveness of solar energy.