Utility-scale drives market growth; utilities embrace new technologies and business models
WASHINGTON, DC -- The United States currently has 33.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar online -- and more than a quarter of that, 9.4 GW, was interconnected to the grid by American utilities just in 2016.
Based on SEPA's annual Utility Market Survey of hundreds of utilities across the country, the Snapshot provides a detailed picture of utilities' critical role in the ongoing growth of solar and other distributed energy resources (DERs) in the country's evolving energy sector. Key takeaways include:
• Utility-scale solar continues to represent the majority of new solar capacity: The utility-scale market grew a whopping 84 percent year-over-year in 2016, far outpacing residential, which grew 11 percent, and non-residential, which grew 20 percent.
• Net metering and rate reform remain central policy issues: California and Vermont implemented successor policies to net metering in 2016, while 28 states considered changes to the key solar incentive. Forty-six utilities in 35 states filed requests for increases in fixed charges.
• Consumer appetite for solar continues to drive new program offerings: Community solar continues to boom -- with 311 MW now online and more than 300 MW in the pipeline -- while utilities pilot other new options, such as rooftop leasing models, with a particular focus on expanding access to low-income customers.
"What's exciting about the survey is seeing the how solar is growing outside the traditional markets -- like California, Hawaii and Arizona," said SEPA Research Analyst Brenda Chew, who led this year's survey. "We now have thriving solar markets in the Southeast, and we're seeing growth in states such as Utah and Arkansas -- another sign that solar really is a competitive, mainstream power."
More than 415 utilities provided data directly to SEPA for this year's survey -- a 20-percent increase over the previous year, she said.
"Utilities and their technology partners across the industry are increasingly focused on designing the programs and business models that will provide customers with more choice and control in the energy they use, while also supporting a reliable, clean and resilient grid," said Julia Hamm, SEPA President and CEO. "Obviously, there are challenges ahead, but what we see in this year's survey is a real excitement about the new opportunities solar and other distributed technologies are bringing to the market."
Download the 2017 Utility Solar Market Snapshot.
About the Utility Market Survey
The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) began surveying electric utilities in 2007 to track the amount of solar power interconnected to the grid each year. Now in its 10th year, the survey and accompanying report continue to provide critical insights into the U.S. solar market in general, with a particular focus on utility scale development. The full dataset detailing this year's survey results can be found on SEPA's Utility Database.
The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) is an educational nonprofit working to facilitate the utility industry's transition to a clean energy future through education, research, standards and collaboration. SEPA offers a range of research initiatives and resources, as well as conferences, educational events and professional networking opportunities. SEPA is founder and co-sponsor of Solar Power International and winner of the Keystone Policy Center's 2016 Leadership in Energy Award. For more information, visit www.sepapower.org.