Sarah A. Miller, Deseret News
Shoppers walk through Trolley Square during a re-opening event last August. The shopping and dining center went green with renovation using a re-claimed water irrigation system and a renewable energy program.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah joined Massachusetts as one of only two states to earn "A" grades in a national report card that assesses policies and practices that help energy consumers more easily "plug in" to renewable energy resources.

The annual ranking by the Network for New Energy Choices has seen Utah advance from failing grades in 2007 to a stellar performance in 2010, both in "net metering," rules and "interconnection" procedures.

"Utah's decision-makers have increasingly recognized the full value of renewable energy resources and worked alongside the clean energy stakeholders to remove barriers to their adoption. Seeing that progress reflected in this year's grades reminds us of how rewarding and productive a process it's been," said Sara Baldwin of Utah Clean Energy.

"Freeing the Grid," released this week by the organization defines best practices and ranks states on their support of two key policies that help customers turn to renewable energy.

Net metering is a policy that lets a customer's electric meter spin backwards through a simple billing arrangement that ensures utility customers receive fair credit for the excess electricity their renewable systems generate.

According to Utah Clean Energy, the Utah net metering rules require the state's investor-owned utilities to make those benefits available to many customer types and systems sizes, promoting far and more widespread participation.

Utah also earned top marks for having interconnection procedures are clear and fair, according to the report card. Too often, the interconnection process can be so complicated, customers are deterred from plugging a renewable energy system into the electrical grid.

The state also adopted a law this year that allows third-party financing for renewable energy systems for nonprofits, schools, governments, and churches.