Market trends show record growth mixed with technological and policy challenges

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) announces the release of its 2015 Solar Market Snapshot, which tracks key trends and market insights in the U.S. market for solar and other distributed energy resources.

Based on SEPA's annual Solar Market Survey of hundreds of utilities across the country, the report provides a clear picture of a market in transition, mixing record growth and ongoing price cuts with increasing technological and policy complexity.

• The amount of solar on residential rooftops across the country jumped 50 percent, from 3,612 megawatts (MW) to 5,434 MW. However, utility-procured solar projects -- which range from community solar to large-scale plants -- continue to deliver the most capacity, close to 3,500 MW in 2015, at prices increasingly competitive with fossil fuels.
• Meanwhile 30 state legislatures or regulatory commissions considered reforms to rate design or to compensation to solar customers for the excess power they feed into the grid. A total of 61 utilities filed applications to increase fixed service fees, but only seven of these cases were approved at the full amount requested, while 18 were approved at a lower amount and 17 were denied.
• Utilities started to test advanced technologies that will allow them to integrate ever-larger amounts of solar and other distributed resources. More than half of the utilities answering survey questions on advanced technologies -- such as storage and advanced inverters -- said they are interested in them, but at this point, actual deployment numbers are still low.

"What distinguishes SEPA's survey from other market intelligence is that our data is based on numbers of solar megawatts and interconnections we get directly from utilities," said Research Analyst Ryan Edge, who led this year's survey. "This approach provides a more realistic assessment of trends and regional growth patterns."

About 350 utilities provided information for this year's survey -- a 20-percent increase over 2014, he said.

"The 2015 snapshot confirms, once again, the central role utilities are playing in the energy transition -- and will continue to play as we face the challenges in policy and technology still ahead," said Julia Hamm, SEPA President and CEO. "But most important, the report clearly documents solar's increasing cost-competitiveness with other forms of generation, the integral role of other distributed energy resources, and the need for clear, replicable road maps for change that can balance risk and innovation."

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