Click here to read the The Sol SOURCE Q1 2020.
The Sol SOURCE is a quarterly journal that our team distributes to our network of clients and solar stakeholders. Our newsletter contains trends and observations gained through quarterly interviews with our team, and it incorporates news from a variety of industry resources.
Virginia – With Democrats taking both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly last year and Democratic Governor Northam nearing the end of his four-year single term, Virginia only allows governors to serve one term, renewable energy industry advocates are out in full force promoting several pieces of renewable friendly legislation. Namely, they are pounding the pavement for the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), a mandatory renewable energy portfolio standard bill that aims to shift the Commonwealth’s electric grid to 100% clean energy by 2050 and see Virginia join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
When it comes to solar specifics, the bill would remove stand-by charges for residential solar systems, legalize power purchase agreements statewide, and increase the net energy metering cap from 1% to 10%, among other measures. Altogether, the bill’s provisions are anticipated to expand Virginia distributed solar energy capacity to 2,500 megawatts from the 92 megawatts installed today. A study commissioned by MDV-SEIA showed that the VCEA would create 29,500 direct solar jobs in Virginia and generate more than $4.3 billion in economic investment over the next decade.
Maine – Since three bipartisan clean energy bills were signed into law in June 2019, Maine has been home to an abundance of renewable energy activity. One of the laws, LD 1494, amended the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), increasing its renewable energy target to 80% by 2030 to eventually reach 100% by 2050. While the state had only a modest 60 MW of solar installed as of the third quarter of 2019, its renewables market is now poised for big things in 2020 and beyond.
To reach the state’s goals, the state’s public utilities commission (PUC) has been directed to incentivize distributed solar and solar-plus-storage deployment, improve renewable energy access for low-to-moderate-income consumers, and launch competitive long-term procurement processes for new renewable generation. This January, the PUC announced that it is planning to release an RFP in the second quarter of 2020 for the newly established Class 1A tier resources, which now only include resources with the highest value and lowest environmental impact. By the end of 2021, utilities will have to procure Class 1A resources equal to 14% of the state’s 2018 retail electricity sales through at least 20-year-long contracts.
As we move into the 2020 state legislative season, Maine has already seen four more clean energy bills introduced. Among others, the bills seek to create a new clean energy fund, require investor-owned utilities to contract for community solar generation, and further aid the deployment of net metering projects across the state. The future of Maine is looking greener and greener.
New York – The Empire State recently hit a significant milestone on its path to carbon neutrality by 2040. With the December addition of a large community solar project in Saratoga County, the state reached 2 GW of total installed solar capacity. While this may seem like a cause for celebration, the solar community has no time to rest. New York now has five years left to install an additional 4 GW of distributed generation (DG) to reach its ambitious goal of 6 GW of DG by 2025. The state is expected to install 3.6 GW of solar within the next five years: theseventh largest five-year projection in the nation.
To that end, last November the New York State Energy and Research Authority (NYSERDA) petitioned the state public service commission (PSC) for an additional $573 million in funding to extend the NY-SUN MW block program to 2025. This funding will help to bolster the Value of Distributed Resources program, particularly for community solar projects, while improving low-to-moderate income access to solar through financial incentives.
As of January 2020, the New York State Electric & Gas Corporation and National Grid’s Community Distributed Generation (CDG) adder tranches have filled up and closed. Solar stakeholders await anxiously for the PSC to provide certainty about the future of CDG compensation in these areas so that community solar can continue to be available. Despite the lack of clear market signals, we expect to see continuing renewable development activity across the state.
- Despite a push from the solar industry, the 30% federal Investment Tax Credit for solar was not extended as part of Congress’s year-end spending bill, and the tax credit stepped down to 26% at the start of the year. Abby Hopper, President and CEO of SEIA, stressed that the industry will survive just fine during the stepdown, pointing out that efforts to extend the 30% ITC remained vital to the fight to combat climate change and the industry would continue to advocate for the credit. In any case, it’s just another day on the solarcoaster.
- A new report by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) revealed that 76% of 2020 planned electricity generation additions will come from wind and solar, a further example of the momentum renewable energy has built over the last decade. This follows an EIA report from earlier this month showing that renewable electricity generation surpassed coal in April 2019 as the country continues to transition from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy.
- On January 27, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy outlined a plan for the Garden State to reach 100% renewable energy by 2050. In parallel, the Board of Public Utilities is finalizing the transition plan from its closing SREC program while settling on its successor. New Jersey, which has long been a leader in solar energy, continues its search in paving the next path forward.
- Everything is bigger in Texas, even renewable energy. An eye-popping report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that the state accounted for a quarter of globalcorporate renewable energy deals signed in 2019. Yes, a quarter of corporate renewable deals worldwide. We’ve often written regarding the growing market of corporate renewable buyers, and with the size of corporate renewables contracts growing 40% year-over-year in 2019, this growth shows no signs of slowing.
- The Section 201 tariffs are back in the news (though still on your modules). The tariffs enacted last year are up for a mid-term review, for which the International Trade Commission (ITC) has been collecting data since Summer 2019 to send to the President on February 7. SEIA is monitoring the situation closely to ensure the ITC understands the gravity of the tariffs’ impact on solar.
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