NewEnergyNews: TODAY’S STUDY: Solar In The Southeast Rising


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    Monday, April 22, 2019

    TODAY’S STUDY: Solar In The Southeast Rising

    Solar In The Southeast 2018 Annual Report

    April 11, 2019 (Southern Alliance for Clean Energy)


    Solar in the Southeast illuminates the critical role of utilities in the growing southeastern solar market. Southeastern states, particularly Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, grant monopoly utilities, rather than a competitive marketplace, the responsibility and control over power supplies.

    Consequently, the location of a home or business is the primary determinant not only of which utility will supply the electricity, but also the amount of solar within that portfolio. To provide an equitable, unbiased comparison of various-sized utilities throughout the Southeast, SACE has ranked utilities on the basis of watts per customer (W/C) of solar power sourced to the customer. SACE has also calculated and forecast total installed capacity of solar power (in megawatts, MW) particularly for state comparisons.

    Executive Summary

    UTILITIES - South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) emerged as a solar power player in 2018, joining Duke Energy Progress, Duke Energy Carolinas, and Georgia Power at the top of our leaderboard. Each of these utilities offers more than 400 watts of solar per customer (W/C). - Fellow Palmetto State utility, Santee Cooper, resides at the bottom of the board for both 2018 and our 2022 forecast. - Florida Power & Light (FPL) announced a bold commitment in 2019 that will propel it to solar leadership for the next decade.

    STATES - Florida is beginning to live up to its reputation as the Sunshine State, surpassing Georgia on installed capacity (MW) in 2018. By 2022, we also forecast solar capacity in Florida to exceed that of North Carolina. - Even with major announcements from Facebook and Google, Tennessee and Alabama exhibit less than half the regional average throughout our forecast period (2022).

    CONTINUED GROWTH Solar growth continues in the Southeast (adding 65% in 2018). The region will surpass 10,000 MW in 2019. SACE now anticipates 19,000 MW by 2022, up from our prior projection of 15,000 by 2021.

    CURRENT AND FUTURE LEADERS Duke Energy Progress, SCE&G, Duke Energy Carolinas and Georgia Power are the current utility leaders ranked by watts per customer (W/C) offering unbiased identification of leaders in the southeast solar market. Walton EMC, FPL and Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) join four returning "SunRisers" demonstrating leading levels of planned solar growth.

    CORPORATE LEADERSHIP 2018 was a banner year for corporate leadership on solar (nationwide 2.8 gigawatts, GW according to Rocky Mountain Institute)1 and the Southeast was no exception. Facebook drove major solar commitments in Georgia (203 MW), Alabama (227 MW) and Tennessee (150 MW). Google announced projects for Tennessee and Alabama (150 MW each) and also joined with Target, Walmart, and Johnson & Johnson, to contract with Georgia Power for 177 MW of solar.

    “SUNBLOCKERS” Santee Cooper, North Carolina Electric Cooperatives, and Seminole Electric Cooperative are sticking with outdated plans for low levels of solar. Despite being home to several of the corporate projects above, TVA falls into this category, as well. We project that solar W/C for these four utilities will remain below today's regional average W/C through at least 2022.


    GROWTH CONTINUES The seven-state Southeast region featured over 8,000 MW of solar in 2018 and will comfortably surpass 10,000 MW in 2019. Based on utility and other industry forecasts, SACE has increased its forecast to 17,000 MW by 2021 and nearing 20,000 MW for 2022. Much of this growth represents existing contracts and commitments that remain highly certain.

    UTILITY-SCALE SOLAR DOMINATES Utility-scale solar is favored by an economic advantage, policies, and discretionary utility practices that discourage customer-sited solar (“behind the meter”). Individual projects as large as 200 MW are underway in the Southeast.

    INCREASED ACCESS Certain markets are poised for growth in distributed generation solar, as well. Legislation pending in South Carolina will extend net metering. The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) approved solar lease designs that should promote further growth and opportunity. Florida utilities are also advancing shared/community solar programs that should expand access for customers interested in solar.

    LIMITED GRID IMPACTS Even with over 19,000 MW in 2022, the corresponding solar generation is less than 4% of retail sales, considerably below levels that could trigger changes in grid operation practices…


    SUNRISERS: Walton EMC burst onto the SunRiser list by commissioning three major solar projects (202.5 MW total with two different developers) to serve a new Facebook datacenter in Georgia. The other new entrants on the list include FPL with plans to double its annual pace of solar expansion (~750 MW per year for the next decade) and Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) as the anchor tenant in a 223.5 MW project FMPA commissioned for 12 Florida municipal utilities. Through fulfillment of their ambitious plans, SCE&G, DEP, TECO, and JEA continue to earn distinction as SunRisers.


    North Carolina remains the southeast leader in solar capacity and among the highest in the country (currently number 2).1 Florida utilities surpassed Georgia in installed capacity (MW) during 2018 and will outshine North Carolina within this forecast period (by 2022). The Georgia PSC has an opportunity to ensure a legacy of leadership by insisting on expansion of both utility-scale and distributed solar in Georgia Power’s 2019 IRP. A comprehensive solar bill is currently pending in the South Carolina Senate (after passing unanimously in the House). Among other provisions, the Energy Freedom Act will extend net metering in the Palmetto State. Our forecast includes additional expansion of distributed solar in Florida, as well, with approval last year of solar leasing programs from major parties. Recent solar development in Alabama and Tennessee has been limited primarily to corporate purchases, rather than as an integrated resource serving all customers…


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