California’s renewable industries support a bill to stabilize utilities while holding them accountable

California on map

California’s wind, solar, geothermal, and bioenergy industries are commending California Governor Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders for introducing legislation to stabilize California’s energy markets in the wake of unprecedented wildfires and climate catastrophes.  The recently introduced AB 1054 is designed to both stabilize and hold accountable the state’s largest utilities in the face of catastrophic climate emergencies. The bill would create a fund that provides financial stability to utilities who adhere to new safety standards and places conditions around PG&E to emerge quickly from bankruptcy while improving safety practices to avoid future wildfires.

The renewable energy industry acknowledges the complex challenges that wildfire recovery, response, safety, and prevention pose to the State’s decision-makers, communities, and residents. The nine trade associations also represent over 28 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale and distributed renewable energy, serving over one-third of California’s electricity portfolio and is only going to grow exponentially. So, their thoughts matter in this conversation.

Shannon Eddy of the Large-scale Solar Association (LSA) stated: “This is a pivotal moment for California. We must urgently address fire prevention and reparation, ensure we have stable utilities and rates, and mitigate the climate crisis that’s predicted to spur more fires. None of this is easy. We applaud the legislature and Governor Newsom for working together to find solutions to these profound challenges.”

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In order to meet California’s current renewable requirement of 60% by 2030, California will need more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewable resources by 2025. The financial stability of utilities is critical to progress on renewable energy development and construction.

To maintain a healthy investment climate for new clean technologies that will help the state achieve carbon neutrality, it is essential to uphold existing contracts with energy suppliers. The Governor and the CPUC have called on PG&E to honor its commitments to clean energy projects serving California ratepayers. Thus far, PG&E has honored these contracts. The clean energy industry expects them to follow through in the future.

— Solar Builder magazine

Soft cost reduction on the way? NREL developing automated solar permitting software

solar permit approval

The Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) tell us they are teaming with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), among other national residential solar companies and nonprofits, to develop new automated permit software for distributed solar and storage. If all goes according to plan, this could be a big help to reduce the cost of solar installations while saving resources for local governments and taxpayers.

NREL was awarded $695,000 in new funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Technology Transitions, Technology Commercialization Fund to develop and deploy the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP) software platform. The intent is to dramatically reduce the time and cost of the permitting application review and approval process, which in turn will decrease customer cancellation rates and expand solar energy development and solar job growth nationwide.

While the cost of residential solar installations has decreased more than 70% over the last ten years, costs are still much higher in the United States than in other mature markets, largely due to non-hardware “soft costs.” The direct and indirect costs of permitting, inspection, and interconnection, including efforts spent acquiring customers who cancel before a permit is issued, can add about $1 per Watt, or $7,000, to the cost of a typical residential system.

Check out Shadow Costs, our award-winning feature that went in depth on problems created by outdated permitting processes.

“The SolarAPP platform will help local governments reduce administrative burdens and make it faster and easier for customers to go solar,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director at The Solar Foundation. “At a time when accelerating the deployment of solar and storage has never been more urgent, this platform fills a critical market need.”

The plan

Nationwide, there are over 20,000 authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) with distinct permitting and inspection requirements, application costs, and approval times. The SolarAPP platform will provide a streamlined process that will increase efficiency and reduce the time and cost of a solar permit, leading in turn to lower cancellation rates.

This platform will also benefit local governments, which face budget constraints and growing workloads to keep up with the accelerated pace of solar energy development. Automated permitting will reduce time spent and increase permit revenues, allowing AHJs to focus their resources on post-installation and inspections.

The SolarAPP platform will build on existing software capabilities at NREL to do the following:

• Provide a flexible, web-based solar permitting tool for residential systems.
• Encourage the standardization of permitting processes, while allowing for some flexibility to produce applications that meet the specific requirements of AHJs.
• Evaluate applications and design plans for safety certification and code compliance.
• Offer opportunities to incorporate energy storage and expand to other market segments, such as solar thermal and commercial systems.

The SolarAPP initiative builds on previous and existing programs to reduce soft costs, including the SolSmart program that provides designation and no-cost technical assistance for local governments to open up solar markets.

The partners working with NREL on the SolarAPP software include installation companies as well as key nonprofit organizations and trade associations. Partners include the California Solar + Storage Association, Institute for Building Technology and Safety (IBTS), Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, SunPower, Sunrun, Tesla, and Vivint Solar.

These groups are active participants in the SolarAPP Campaign, a national initiative of The Solar Foundation and SEIA which seeks a fundamental reshaping of solar permitting at the federal, state, and local levels. The goal is to allow most routine rooftop solar projects to receive instantaneous approval and efficient inspections, while enhancing safety and reliability.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar module manufacturer Hanwha Q CELLS joins SEIA board of directors

Hanwha_Q_CELLS

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the U.S. solar energy industry, announced the addition of Hanwha Q CELLS, a leading international solar manufacturer is joining SEIA’s board of directors effective immediately.

“Hanwha Q CELLS is at the forefront of the solar industry’s cutting-edge innovation, manufacturing some of the world’s most advanced solar technologies and products with investments right here in the United States,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “A robust manufacturing sector is critical to the health of our industry, and I am thrilled to welcome Hanwha Q CELLS onto SEIA’s board of directors.”

Hanwha Q CELLS is one of the world´s largest photovoltaic manufacturers with its high-quality, high-efficiency solar cells and modules. Hanwha Q CELLS is a fully bankable solar solution provider with a global footprint and market access.

“SEIA has played a critical role in making solar energy the United States’ top source of new power,” said Scott Moskowitz, director of strategy and market intelligence at Hanwha Q CELLS America. “As the leading residential module vendor and the largest solar manufacturer in America, we are thrilled to further our commitment to the U.S. solar industry by joining SEIA’s board.”

— Solar Builder magazine

SEIA calls its shot: In the next decade, solar can hit 20 percent of all electricity generation

SEIA

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is turning its attention to the 2020s, officially designating the upcoming decade The Solar+ Decade. More than a moniker, SEIA is coupling the name with policy objectives and benchmarks in a roadmap for solar to hit 20 percent of all electricity generation by 2030.

That number is 2.5 percent today, so there is work to do, and key to getting there is that “+” in Solar+. SEIA is emphasizing that to achieve this goal, solar, wind and storage must work together to transform a complex and interrelated world of markets, customers and electricity systems.

“It is incumbent upon us to create a shared clean energy vision,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “It won’t be just the Solar Decade, but the Solar+ Decade where Solar + Storage, Solar + Grid Modernization, Solar + Wind, and Solar+ Overwhelming Public Support combine to define our nation’s clean energy future,” she said.

Over the next 10 years, the Solar+ Decade will be about collaboration and building the partnerships and expertise needed to overcome systemic challenges preventing the widescale adoption of solar.

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To meaningfully address climate change and expand the benefits that low-priced clean energy brings to the economy, solar must account for a much larger share of U.S. electricity. Increasing solar generation from 2.5 percent today to 20 percent by 2030 could add more than $345 billion into the U.S. economy and grow the workforce to 600,000 solar professionals, from nearly 250,000 today.

“The goal is bold but achievable,” Hopper said. “If we hit 20 percent solar by 2030, we will prove that solving the climate challenge won’t hurt the economy, but instead will be one of the greatest economic growth opportunities in decades,” she said.

Indeed, this effort isn’t without its challenges. To get there, the industry must reach an average annual growth rate of 18 percent and cost reductions across all market segments by nearly 50 percent. The industry will need to install an average of 39 gigawatts (GW) each year throughout the 2020s, including 77 GW in 2030 alone.

On May 15, Hopper testified before the House Science, Space, and Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy where she outlined the technical and market challenges the industry needs to overcome. These challenges and priority research areas include:

  • Growing a more diverse workforce which will require federal job training.
  • Cutting soft costs and streamlining permitting and interconnection processes.
  • Prioritizing the security and resilience of the grid by easing grid integration and creating cyber secure technologies.
  • Supporting advanced manufacturing and later stage demonstration and deployment projects that enable the scale up of energy storage.

“The 2020s will be the decade where we take action and work with our partners to solve our most pressing climate problems,” said Hopper said. “The stakes have never been higher as we take our first steps into the Solar+ Decade.”

— Solar Builder magazine

The U.S. surpasses 2 million solar installations (which will double by 2023)

The U.S. is now home to more than 2 million solar PV installations, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The mark comes just three years after the industry completed its 1 millionth installation, a feat that took 40 years to accomplish.

“The rapid growth in the solar industry has completely reshaped the energy conversation in this country,” said Abigail Ross-Hopper, SEIA president and CEO. “This $17 billion industry is on track to double again in five years, and we believe that the 2020s will be the decade that solar becomes the dominant new form of energy generation.”

Wood Mac SEIA 2 million solar installs chart

Wood Mackenzie forecasts that there will be 3 million installations in 2021 and 4 million in 2023, continuing the swift rise of solar.

California represented 51 percent of the first million installations but accounted for 43 percent of the second million. This is in large part due to a growing residential sector that is rapidly diversifying across state markets. South Carolina, for instance, was an emerging market in 2016 with 1,160 cumulative installations. Today, the state is home to more than 18,000 solar systems and is expected to add 22,000 systems over the next five years.

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Other fast-growing states over the last three years include Texas, Utah, Florida, Rhode Island, and Maryland, which combined have grown from around 50,000 installations to more than 200,000. Looking ahead, Illinois will see cumulative installations increase from 4,000 today to nearly 100,000 by 2024. While California will continue to lead the nation in installations, the remaining top 10 state markets will see faster growth. Nearly 750,000 installations are expected in those markets over the next 5 years, compared to 500,000 installations over the last 5 years.

“According to our latest forecasts, by 2024, there will be on average, one solar installation per minute,” said Michelle Davis, Senior Solar Analyst with Wood Mackenzie. “That’s up from one installation every 10 minutes in 2010.”

“Our nation is harnessing homegrown sunshine at scale to lower electric bills, create jobs, reduce harmful pollution, and build a brighter future for our children and grandchildren,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar. “This remarkable progress is a true American success story made possible by customers, workers, policymakers, advocates and innovators. It shows us both what’s possible and how much farther we can go when it comes to an urgent transition to clean energy.”

Today, the 2 million residential, commercial and utility-scale solar installations produce enough electricity each year to power more than 12 million American homes. By 2024, 2.5 percent of all U.S. homes will have a solar installation. The total amount of solar generating capacity that goes along with the 2 million solar installations has now eclipsed 70 gigawatts.

— Solar Builder magazine