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Meet a Solar Policy Expert Joyce McLaren Page of Interviewer Erin Nobler, Guest Joyce McLaren

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Interviewer Erin Nobler, Guest Joyce McLaren

Erin Nobler: Welcome to STAT Chat, a podcast from the Solar Technical Assistance Team at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado. I'm your host Erin Nobler, and today I will be chatting about solar policy and value of solar with Joyce McLaren, a senior energy analyst here at the lab.
We wanted to walk with Joyce as part of our Meet a Solar Expert series, which is meant to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the working world of industry professionals. So with that I'd like to introduce Joyce. Hi Joyce; thanks for joining us today.
Joyce McLaren: Hi Erin, thanks for having me.
Erin Nobler: So Joyce, let's start by learning a little bit about you. Can you tell us about your education and previous jobs before coming to work at NREL?
Joyce McLaren: Sure. I worked at the California Energy Commission in the mid-1990s and helped establish their Public Interest Energy Research program. And that program still provides $62 million of research funds every year.
I left California after some years to do my PhD in science and technology policy at the University of Sussex, in England, and my dissertation was looking at the effects of national policy on public acceptance of wind energy and the factors that were involved in project success there. And then I did a post-doc in France before coming to NREL.
Erin Nobler: So what are your current research areas at NREL?
Joyce McLaren: Well I enjoy keeping up with cutting edge policy and program designs like the value of solar, which is a current hot topic. And I also look at best practices and how programs might transfer from one location to another.
Erin Nobler: Okay, so any recent research that you've been working on? Any publications that you're looking forward to coming out?
Joyce McLaren: Well we have one coming out in a few months on the value of solar, specifically on the program design elements. And then I've recently done a series of brochures for decision makers at the state level on community solar and using solar for EV charging and advanced inverter functionalities and how they support higher penetrations of solar. And then the last one on using solar for resiliency purposes.
Erin Nobler: So you've been busy, I can see. Have you had any projects stand out in the last year? Anything that you're really excited about?
Joyce McLaren: Well some of my most rewarding projects recently have been working with states and local governments to help address their questions about renewable energy policies and programs, and to help them clarify their goals and work towards those goals. So for example I was working with the City of Aspen to help them get past some of the barriers that were holding them back from attaining their goals to supply 100 percent of the city's electricity with renewables. So that was a really enjoyable project.
Erin Nobler: Yeah, ambitious of them, and it sounds like you got to do a lot of work, so that sounds great.
Okay, so one last question for you: what do you think the biggest issue in solar will be in the year ahead?
Joyce McLaren: Well certainly the net metering debate is the biggest issue that we're currently seeing within the states, and I think we'll see more and more states looking at the value of solar mechanism as a possible alternative to net metering. And NREL and many others are doing work in that area. So I think the conversation and the body of literature about net metering and the value of solar is certainly going to expand in the coming year.
Erin Nobler: Great. Thanks. Joyce, thanks for telling us a bit about yourself and a solar policy analyst's work. And to you all thank you for listening to today's podcast. Be sure to check back for future podcasts covering topics like policy stacking, community solar and our In the Field series.
STAT Chat is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Sun Shot Initiative, working to make solar energy cost competitive in the United States by 2020. Learn more about our program by visiting and clicking on the Technology Deployment link, or email us at
Until next time.

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