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.
On September 22, 2017, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) determined that increased imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells (whether or not partially or fully assembled into other products) are a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic industry producing competing articles. The determination was made by a 4-0 vote and was in response to a petition filed by Suniva Inc. The USITC will proceed into the remedy phase of the investigation with a public hearing set for October 3, 2017, and a report of the USITC’s injury determinations and remedy recommendations will be submitted to the President by November 13, 2017. For more information, please see the USITC news release here.
On June 30, 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly ratified compromise legislation that modernizes the state’s solar energy rules but also includes an 18-month moratorium on wind energy projects in the state. The bill now awaits Governor Roy Cooper’s signature or veto.
House Bill 589 was developed through a year-long process of stakeholder negotiations, including representatives from the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (“NCSEA”). Of note, when the bill was introduced in the Senate after passing in the House, the wind moratorium was added to the legislation to provide for a comprehensive study on wind energy development in the state, citing concerns over the impacts of the siting of wind energy facilities on the aviation operations of the state’s military installations. Continue Reading North Carolina Passes Solar Reform Bill with an 18-Month Wind Moratorium
On June 8, 2017, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) released a report on the August 2016 Blue Cut Fire, which resulted in the loss of 1,200 megawatts (“MW”) of solar photovoltaic (“PV”) power generation. NERC’s report contains recommendations for avoiding similar incidents by reconfiguring solar inverters, the devices that convert solar energy from direct current to alternating current.
On August 16, 2016, the Blue Cut Fire erupted in Southern California’s Cajon Pass, near a significant transmission corridor containing three 500 kilovolt (“kV”) lines owned by Southern California Edison (“SCE”) and two 287 kV lines owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (“LADWP”). During the incident, the fire interrupted solar PV power generation in the transmission corridor by inducing faults on the transmission system. In total, the SCE lines experienced 13 faults and the LADWP lines experienced two faults. The most significant event resulted in the loss of 1,200 MW of solar PV power generation. The fault events did not de-energize any of the solar PV facilities; instead, the facilities ceased output in response to the faults perceived on the system. Continue Reading NERC Recommends Inverter Changes After California Fire Disrupts Solar Generation