ORIGINAL REPORTING: In the New South, customer demand is showing utilities the dollars and sense in solar
In the New South, customer demand is showing utilities the dollars and sense in solar; Once reluctant Southeastern utilities now see solar as a deal they can’t refuse
Herman K. Trabish, March 15, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: A new push is coming to finish off coal in the South and replace it with New Energy.
The remarkable transition that utilities in the Southeast are undergoing is a powerful indicator of the profound changes happening in the nation’s power sector. The Southeast had 200 MW of solar capacity in 2012, but led by North Carolina’s Duke Energy utilities and Georgia Power, it had 6 GW at the end of 2017, according to Solar in the Southeast, released in February by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). Even utilities not aggressively building solar now realize customers want solar, are finding it is affordable, are finding ways it can serve utility purposes, and are capturing the economic opportunity in a solar resource second only to sun in the desert Southwest in the United States.
Existing contracts and commitments promise over 10 GW of solar capacity in the Southeast by 2019 and as much as 15 GW by 2021, according to SACE. But, to date, utilities in the conservative Southeast have taken little notice of solar beyond its ability to meet growing residential and commercial customer demand at increasingly attractive prices. A newer factor, which has emerged only recently in the wake of climate change-driven extreme storms and power outages, is solar's potential resilience value. The biggest obstacles to growth, highly evident in the Southeast, are the absence of supportive policy and diminishing utility load. They are reasons only about an eighth of today’s 6 GW in the Southeast is distributed solar, according to SACE Solar Program Director and report lead author Bryan Jacob. Many of the region's utilities, facing flat or declining load growth, oppose strong supports for customer-sited solar. But new laws and policies, put forward by lawmakers responding to popular demand, are laying the groundwork across the region for more changes…click here for more
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