On April 19th, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the “Protecting Solar Jobs Act” (H.R. 5571) in the House Committee on Ways and Means.  The proposed bill is in response to President Trump’s imposition of a 30% tariff on imported crystalline-silicon solar cells and modules – his first major trade action of 2018.  The bipartisan group was made up of Representatives from Nevada, California and South Carolina with the bill being filed by Representative Jacky Rosen of Nevada.

In introducing the bill, Representative Rosen defended the move by stating that the “[s]olar energy’s success throughout Nevada has led to new jobs, cheaper power bills, and the growth of a new industry that is diversifying [the] state’s economy…[The] Administration directly threatened the stability and financial well-being of [Nevada’s] local solar industry when the President decided to impose a 30 percent tariff on imported panels….[The] new bill will reverse this damaging decision.”  Another supporter of the bill, Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, noted that “[s]olar power is one of the cheapest and fastest-growing renewable energy sources, and if we are really focused on becoming energy independent, now is no time to slow its growth. … [O]ver 7,000 South Carolinians who work in the solar industry could lose their jobs because of these tariffs.  This bill is about sustaining solar as a renewable and key energy source toward jobs, clean energy, and energy independence.”

The House Committee on Ways and Means will now have to decide if the Protecting American Solar Jobs Act will be released to the floor for a vote.  If the bill passes a vote by a simple majority, then the bill will move on to the Senate and then to the President for approval.  If the President vetos the bill, it will then return to the Senate and Congress where it must pass by a two-thirds majority to override the President’s veto.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (“SACE”) released its Solar in the Southeast 2017 Annual Report (the “2017 Report”) which projects the Southeast region of the United States (including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) to continue its exponential solar growth, reaching 15,000 MW of solar by 2021. In 2017, the Southeast had just under 6,000 MW of solar power. Currently, North Carolina leads the way with 2,699 MW of solar, followed by Georgia with 1,222 MW and Florida with 839 MW. According to the 2017 Report, Florida utilities are expected to invest heavily in solar power over the coming years, and Florida’s solar generation is expected to surpass Georgia’s generation by the end of 2018. While the rapid growth of solar in the Southeast is impressive, even if the Southeast reaches the projected 15,000 MW in 2021, solar generation would constitute less than 3% of retail sales. The 2017 Report explains that solar growth in the Southeast is dominated by utility-scale projects, and smaller residential and commercial solar projects are expected to comparatively lag due to the monopoly utility structure in place in most Southeastern states. SACE stresses that the region has immense solar potential, second only to the desert Southwest, and even more solar growth should be encouraged. For more information, see the 2017 Report here.

 

An ambitious bill introduced in the Massachusetts’ Senate proposes to accelerate expansion to the state’s renewable energy sector. Along with implementing a market-based system to reduce emissions, the bill also aims to increase the required growth rate of the state’s renewable portfolio from 1% to 3% per year. Specific goals and proposals for solar, wind and energy storage are included in the bill. Continue Reading Massachusetts Bill Aims to Accelerate Renewable Energy Transition

In 2017, there were a record number of solar policies debated in state legislatures and commissions, with nearly every state considering some kind of solar policy or rate change. Recently, the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) released its 50 States of Solar report which reviews solar policies and initiatives across the nation. In its report NCCETC found that there were 249 state actions on solar policies in 2017: 34% were related to residential fixed charges and minimum bill increases, 27% were distributed generation (DG) compensation policies, and 12% were community solar policies. The actions took place in 45 States plus the District of Columbia. That is up by 17% from 212 actions in 2016 and 42% from the 175 actions in 2015.   Continue Reading State-level Solar Policy Actions up 17% in 2017

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that President Trump has implemented tariffs on imported solar cells and modules. The tariffs will be in effect for four years and include 30% tariffs on imported solar cells and modules for the first year, with the tariffs decreasing to 15% by the fourth year. Also, the first 2.5 gigawatts of cells imported each year will be exempt from the tariffs. The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) previously determined that increased imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells were a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic industry producing competing articles. The USITC later issued remedy recommendations, including tariffs, to be considered by President Trump. For more information about the President’s decision, please see the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative fact sheet here.

The Wind Energy Foundation released a report finding that upgrades and investment in transmission infrastructure is necessary to keep up with corporate demand for renewable energy. As the price of solar and wind energy has fallen, corporate demand for renewable energy has increased to a point that existing transmission lines are inadequate to provide access to such energy. Since 2013, U.S. corporations have committed to buying roughly 9 GW of wind and solar power and in 2016, the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance set a target of purchasing an additional 60 GW of renewable energy by 2025. According to the report, transmission planners and regulators must approve plans to expand and upgrade transmission lines and FERC must improve their transmission planning process. With much of the renewable energy development taking place in the central U.S., long-distance transmission will be required to provide the renewable energy to major cities on the coasts. The full Wind Energy Foundation report can be found here.

On Monday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) released its Renewables Portfolio Standard Annual Report announcing that the State is on track to meet its renewables portfolio standard (RPS) requirement of 50% ten years ahead of schedule. The California RPS sets a requirement that 33% of electricity retail sales be served by renewable resources by 2020, and 50% by 2030. But with aggressive investment in renewables the State’s three large investor owned utilities (IOUs) may achieve the 50% goal by the 2020 deadline, ten years early. Continue Reading CPUC: California May Achieve The 50% RPS Goal By 2020, 10 Years Ahead of Schedule

Southern California Edison (SCE) released The Clean Power and Electrification Pathway, a blueprint for California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. SCE explains that a clean power and electrification pathway is the best approach to meet California’s 2030 and 2050 climate goals, reducing 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 40 and 80 percent respectively. The plan largely revolves around three economic sectors: electricity, transportation and buildings. By 2030, the plan calls for California’s electric grid to be supplied by 80% carbon-free energy, at least 7 million electric vehicles in California and one-third of space and water heaters in California to be electric powered. Essentially, the plan proposes to produce an electric grid with more carbon-free energy that will supply high-polluting industries. Other pathways to decarbonization, including renewable natural gas and hydrogen, were also analyzed but were determined to be more expensive than the clean power and electrification pathway. For more information, see SCE’s full plan here.

 

The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) announced the remedy recommendations in its global safeguard investigation regarding imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells (whether or not partially or fully assembled into other products). The USITC previously determined that increased imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells are a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic industry producing competing articles. The remedy recommendations, along with the injury determination, additional findings, and the basis for them, will be included in a report that will be sent to the President by November 13, 2017. For more information, please see the USITC news release here, and the statements of the Commissioners regarding their remedy recommendations here.

 

A National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report shows that utility-scale solar costs fell 29% last year to roughly $35/MWh on a levelized basis. Overall, prices for utility-scale solar power purchase agreements have dropped nearly 75% since 2009, according to the report. The cost decline is attributed to lower module and inverter prices, higher module efficiency, and lower labor costs, though the pace of decline appears to be slowing. The NREL study indicates that the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative has reached its 2020 cost target for utility-scale solar systems three years early. The U.S. Department of Energy Laboratory based its study on 189 PPAs totaling nearly 11,800 MW.  The report warned that increasing rates of curtailment is reducing the wholesale market value of solar, but offered that battery storage projects attached to utility-scale solar is one way to restore value. For more information, see the NREL’s press release here, and the full report here.