Tennessee Joins List Of Solar Also-Rans Turning U.S. Market On Its Head

The U.S. solar market has previously been dominated by California. It has always been the big beast, by any metric. Now, as federal support for the industry slackens off, a number of states, utilities and regulators are pressing on regardless.

The benefits for California are now on show for other states to see. There are nearly one million solar installations in the state and the sector employs 76,000 people. In the last decade between 40-60% of all the solar installed in the U.S. has been in California. That is now changing.

As the economics of the technology has improved, many utility commissions have accepted that solar and solar-plus-storage are cheaper options than coal and in some use cases, cheaper than natural gas.

In 2018, both Florida and Texas made significant gains but in the past few months the list of states where preparations for longer-term commitments to solar is growing.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has just approved its own energy plans. These include a rather hefty 14GW of solar deployment by 2038. That sounds like a long time away but that’s 18 years at a rate of more than 750MW a year and the clock is ticking. For context, the state had just over 350MW installed in total as of Q1 2019.

The big driver for TVA, is delivering value to its ratepayers.

“Our success to this point has come from a disciplined approach to how we run our business, which has allowed us to reduce our debt to its lowest point in 25 years and still invest in our generation and transmission system,” said John Thomas, Chief Financial Officer, TVA. “That same financial discipline will now allow us to maintain stable rates through 2030 and implement the initiatives recommended by the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).”

Not that long ago, only coal and gas would have featured in a conversation about how to achieve that.

“The energy market continues to evolve and the IRP helps provide us flexible ways to keep delivering safe, reliable and cleaner power at the lowest feasible cost while supporting [the] efficient use of energy,” said Jeff Lyash, President and CEO, TVA.

An additional driver for the solar market to look forward to is the growing number of states either establishing or exploring a move to 100% renewable energy.

Washington DC and Puerto Rico, along with the states of Hawaii, California and New Mexico were the first movers in establishing 100% renewable energy mandates in one form or another. Since then New York, Wisconsin Maryland and Minnesota have started their own efforts too.

The first wave of GW-scale growth for solar in the U.S. was super-charged by the 30% investment tax credit (ITC) with states with a strong Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) among the first movers and the softer targets. Flash forward a decade and the future of the ITC is in question but the source of a softer top-down policy signal is not.

Source: Forbes
Date: Aug 27, 2019