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12.23.15 Solar Media Update

December 23, 2015

By Clara Schopf, Incentive Coordinator, SoCore Energy

San Diego City Council Approves 100% Renewables by 2035 Climate Action Plan

  • The San Diego City Council unanimously approved a Climate Action Plan that commits the eighth largest U.S. city to 100% renewables and a 50% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.
    • This makes it one of the first major U.S. cities with a legally binding pledge.
  • Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the Council’s Democratic majority convinced the city’s conservative business leaders the plan would grow jobs and the economy with measures like shifting 50% of the city fleet to electric vehicles by 2020 and recycling 98% of sewage and wastewater methane.
  • The city’s renewables mandate significantly exceeds California’s 50% renewables by 2050 mandate and matches mandates in place in San Francisco, San Jose, and Las Vegas.
    • Burlington, Vermont and Aspen, Colorado have already reached 100% renewables operation.

Louisiana Regulators Set to Wrestle with Net Metering in 2016

  • Louisiana energy regulators are struggling with net metering and solar generation issues, and may consider hosting a technical conference in order to get all parties in one room to discuss the matter.
  • Last month, Entergy hit its net metering cap of 0.5% of peak load and will begin to pay new rooftop solar a lower rate, based on its avoided cost, rather than the full retail rate for generation.
  • A study completed earlier this year on raising the cap cast residential solar as a burden on Louisiana’s broader energy consumers, but WRKF radio reports the conclusions are a matter of dispute at the commission.

SolarCity Talks Cost Reduction at Analyst Day, Company Mission at Town Hall

  • SolarCity held its analyst day during one of the more ulcer-inducing legislative weeks in the solar industry’s history.
    • The company held a more consumer-focused town hall meeting this week as well.
  • Conclusion and guidance from the company:
  • SolarCity is originating new solar installations at an annualized rate of greater than 1 gigawatt.
  • The company looks to lower solar customer acquisition costs from $0.64 per watt to $0.40 per watt.
  • It claims it has a cost path to $2.25 per watt in 2017 and ultimately $2.00 per watt; targeted cost reductions range across the board from hardware to soft costs.
  • SolarCity plans to raise prices in 2016 or 2017 as utility rates increase.
  • During the company’s most recent earnings call, the solar installer/financier announced a strategic move toward cost reductions and slower growth with the looming threat of a drop in federal tax credits at the end of next year, a situation soon to be settled by Congress.

South Atlantic States Lag in Utility-Scale Solar with NC, GA as Bright Spots for Growth

  • The nation’s South Atlantic states have installed only 11% of the U.S. utility-scale solar photovoltaic capacity of 9,968 MW.
    • North Carolina leads the region with almost 1.5 GW of installed capacity.
    • Georgia is second with 250 MW, but is expected to add over 600 MW in 2016.
  • The other states in the South Atlantic — Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, and West Virginia — provide only about one-eighth of the region’s utility-scale PV capacity, according to just-released September 2015 EIA numbers.
  • The Southwestern states, by contrast, account for 64% of the U.S. utility-scale installed capacity, led by California, Arizona, and Texas.
    • North Carolina, however, was second in new installations in 2015 and is expected to hold its position in the coming year.

In Other News…

The South Mississippi Electric Power Association is threatening to sue the Mississippi Public Service Commission if the commission continues to require it to pay customers with rooftop solar arrays the new net energy metering rate of $0.07/kWh to $0.075/kWh for solar electricity exported to the grid. See article here

The Nevada Public Utility Commission voted unanimously in favor of a new solar tariff structure on Tuesday that industry groups say will destroy the Nevada solar market, one of the fastest-growing markets in the country. See article here

An extension of the solar investment tax credit would be a boon to the domestic industry, bolstering installations by 54% through 2020 and creating a 20 GW annual solar market, according to new analysis from GTM Research. See article here

Dramatic growth in energy storage could have big implications for renewable energy in Ohio, as well as place increased economic pressure on the state’s fossil fuel plants. See article here

The Oregon Department of Energy on Dec. 16 said that it has awarded $295,000 in state and federal funds to the Eugene Water & Electric Board for a pilot project that demonstrates energy storage and microgrid technologies. See article here

Southern Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, has acquired a 51% stake in the 200MW Garland PV project in California by signing an agreement with Canadian Solar subsidiary Recurrent Energy. See article here

According to the Solar Foundation’s “Maryland Solar Jobs Census”, solar job growth in Maryland and the rest of the nation has been driven by new solar array installations. See article here

Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, has collaborated with University of Georgia, or UGA, for a new 1MW solar tracking demonstration project in Athens, Georgia. See article here

New From BNEF

Solar Companies Gain as Tax Credit Brings Early Holiday Gift

Solar companies surged Wednesday after U.S. lawmakers agreed to extend a key federal tax credit.

SolarCity Leads Solar Industry Higher on Tax Credit, California

SolarCity Corp. is leading gains among U.S. clean energy companies after lawmakers agreed to extend two key federal tax credits. Solar companies got an additional boost from California, where regulators upheld policies that promote the use of rooftop panels.

SunEdison Sinks as Appaloosa Seeks Detail on TerraForm Deals

SunEdison Inc. sank the most in a month after Appaloosa Management LP, a hedge fund run by billionaire David Tepper, sought documents from TerraForm Power Inc. on a recent management shakeup there and on acquisitions its parent company recently renegotiated.

Batteries Gaining Favor Over Gas Peaker Plants in California

Southern California Edison is embracing energy-storage technology over the natural gas-fired peaker plants that utilities have traditionally relied upon to meet sudden shortfalls in electricity.

Solar Will Slow After U.S. Tax Credit Extension and That’s Good

A U.S. tax break for solar energy set for Congressional approval Friday will slow growth next year by about 24 percent — and that’s great for the industry.

 

*Article descriptions and summaries in this update consist of direct quotes from the referenced articles.

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