December 15, 2016

Record Solar Growth, Thanks to Utilities

Heath Knakmuhs

Over the past few months, we have demonstrated how outdated net metering policies shift grid costs away from customers with rooftop solar panels to those without such installations.  Due to this cost shift, utility regulators in states such as Maine, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere are reexamining their net metering policies to reduce the inequitable cost shifting perpetuated by antiquated net metering policies. 

Meanwhile, rooftop solar advocates call our educational pieces “anti-solar” and hastily attach the same label to efforts by electric utilities to reduce the cost shifting imposed by outdated net metering policies.  But, if utilities fighting against these unfair cross-subsidies are really “anti-solar,” why are these same utilities leading the way when it comes to the development of new solar installations? 

That’s right, many utilities are pro-solar, and they are making major investments to ensure that our future electricity resource mix is reliable, affordable, and clean. 

But don’t take my word for it.  Instead, consider a report issued this week by the Solar Energy Industries Association (“SEIA”).  SEIA is the nationwide trade association representing those entities that promote, manufacture, install, and support the development of solar energy.  Therefore, SEIA is a decidedly “pro-solar” organization – if not THE most pro-solar organization out there.

What did SEIA’s report conclude?  As illustrated in the below graph, SEIA found that the third quarter of 2016 (“Q3”) was a blockbuster period for solar installations, with approximately 2 Megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic panels installed every hour.  For those who are not yet impressed, SEIA estimates that 2 Megawatts is enough to power 328 homes.  That much solar installed every hour!  Pretty impressive.  

Of the 4,143 MW of solar that was installed in the third quarter of the year, 77 percent of it was done by utilities.  A contribution that big certainly doesn’t sound anti-solar to me.  While the proponents of rooftop solar may get all the attention, it is really America’s utilities that are leading the way with the proliferation of solar use.   

So, don’t take it from me.  Take it directly from the solar industry itself.  Utilities actually are the most pro-solar entities around.