Energy policy is the way the government addresses energy, encompassing laws, regulations, judicial opinions, incentives, and strategic objectives at the federal, regional, state, local, and utility levels.

The Center’s Policy Program works to advance a sustainable energy economy by conducting objective research and analysis and providing education and technical assistance on energy policy issues nationwide. The Policy Program tracks developments in energy policy and examines the impacts of these on clean energy technologies.

Why It Matters

Policy has a huge impact on the market for clean energy technologies, often influencing demand, market access, and compensation. Smart policies can accelerate the realization of clean energy benefits, including energy independence and resiliency, financial savings, local economic development, and improved environmental quality. However, policy is constantly changing and can be difficult to understand without spending hours pouring through legislation and regulatory dockets. The Policy Program makes up-to-date information on energy policy across the country on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) which is publicly available. This helps homeowners and businesses, the clean energy industry, utilities, policy makers, and others understand the nation’s policy landscape.


The Policy Program offers customized research and analysis on energy policy issues, including comparative state policy analysis, tracking of pending legislative and regulatory actions, and new market research.

Understanding the policy landscape is critical for clean energy businesses to identify market opportunities and limitations. Policymakers, while familiar with their own state’s laws and regulations, often look to other states when considering policy changes.

These services are directed toward clean energy businesses, investors, advocates, utilities, policymakers, and researchers.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), established in 1995, is the most well-known project of the Policy Program. This public resource, managed by the Policy staff and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, offers comprehensive and up-to-date information on renewable energy and energy efficiency policies and incentives at the federal, state, local, and utility levels. DSIRE is used broadly across the energy industry. Homeowners and businesses can easily search for policies and incentives applicable to them, clean energy businesses may identify promising markets for their products, and policymakers and utilities can compare their programs to the approaches taken by other states and utilities.

The Policy Program releases a quarterly report called the 50 States of Solar, which details distributed solar policy and rate design action across the country. This area has become one of the fastest changing in energy policy and these reports are intended to aid solar companies, investors, utilities, advocates, policymakers, and consultants in keeping track of the changes being considered. The Q3 2016 Executive Summary can be accessed here, and the full report can be purchased here.

The Policy Program offers customized policy research and analysis services to clean energy businesses, utilities, advocacy organizations, and other industry participants. These services include state comparative policy analysis, research and tracking of pending legislative and regulatory actions, and analysis of market opportunities based on policy landscape.


Policy plays a large role in the adoption of clean energy technologies. The Program makes policy and incentive information more available and actionable, presents information on the impact of policy, and provides direct policy-related assistance in order to increase the adoption of clean energy technologies.

Federal policy currently plays a small but important role in clean energy. The recently extended Investment of Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit are the most significant federal incentives currently available for driving investment in several clean energy technologies. The Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) of 1978 is another important federal policy. It requires utilities to interconnect small renewable and combined heat and power generators while compensating them at the avoided cost rate for energy produced. PURPA has played a particularly large role in driving solar development in North Carolina.

Most clean energy policy today can be found at the state level. Twenty-nine states have a renewable portfolio standard, typically requiring a certain percentage of retail electricity sales to come from renewable sources. Forty-five states have a statewide net metering policy or other distributed generation compensation policy which requires utilities to compensate customers for energy not used directly on-site and sent back to the grid. Other key state policies and incentives include tax credits, energy efficiency resource standards, rebate programs, and third-party electricity sales.

Local government policy can also play an important role in clean energy development. Permitting processes, zoning restrictions, and local planning can all impact development in a direct way. North Carolina has a template solar ordinance available as a resource for local governments looking to address solar in zoning codes.

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Members of the community can get involved in the clean transportation conversation via our Fuel What Matters campaign. Visit FuelWhatMatters.org to learn more. NCSU students can get involved through our semester long internship program. Future events for North Carolinians to get behind the wheel of clean transportation vehicles will start at the beginning of 2017. Aside from the events mentioned above, there will be other events coming soon. Be sure to watch this space as new events will be added regularly.

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