CleanTechnica is the #1 cleantech-focused
website
 in the world. Subscribe today!


Clean Power local solar

Published on January 7th, 2013 | by John Farrell

0

Is Your Utility Ready For A Solar Rooftop Revolution?

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

January 7th, 2013 by
 
 
Within a decade, more than 35 million buildings may be generating their own solar electricity (without subsidies) at prices lower than their utility offers, sufficient to power almost 10% of the country.

That’s the powerful headline from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s latest report, Commercial Rooftop Revolution. Despite the opportunity, utilities, regulators, and policymakers are largely unprepared for the surge of local solar power.

See a summary of the report in the slides below (or read on):

Is Your Utility Ready for a Solar Rooftop Revolution? from John Farrell

Is Your Utility Ready for a Solar Rooftop Revolution? from John Farrell

In Minnesota, for example, the state’s largest utility expects just 20 megawatts of new solar power in the next 13 years, according to its draft filing with the Public Utility Commission. But within 10 years, according to the report, unsubsidized solar electricity will be so inexpensive that 200 times more solar (over 4,000 megawatts) could be installed on the rooftops of Minnesota homes and businesses, providing lower cost electricity than from the utility.

That’s just one wake up call, among many, in Commercial Rooftop Revolution. A solar revolution that has been largely confined to states with generous sunshine (California) or high electricity prices (New Jersey) or both (Hawaii) will spread rapidly in the coming years. Utilities in unexpected states like Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Nebraska will face enormous competition from inexpensive rooftop solar power by 2022.

Many utilities and state regulatory commissions are finding the value in solar and realizing that perceived barriers aren’t as large as they had feared. Austin Energy, a Texas municipal utility, now pays a non-subsidy premium for solar because it helps them offset expensive peak power purchases. In Hawaii, regulators have amended archaic limits to match renewable technology. California grid legislators increased the amount of solar allowed to use net metering to offset on-site electricity use. And Colorado and Vermont have capped costs and streamlined solar permitting.

With a solar market driven by cheaper-than-electricity prices, Hawaii’s electricity system may hint at the forthcoming paradigm change. One of the state’s public utility commissioners notes that utilities need to transition from being grid dominators to facilitators, from being inflexible to being flexible. They will need to switch from a reliance on utility-controlled, large, centralized coal and nuclear power plants to a nimble mix of flexible energy sources like energy storage, demand response, or natural gas. Already, the state is one of 14 states with local or state-based CLEAN Contract (a.k.a. feed-in tariff) policies that dramatically simplify the process of going solar for residential and other electric customers.

With the cost of solar falling rapidly and local solar challenging utility prices nationwide, ILSR’s report suggests that utilities will need to accommodate a grassroots movement toward local, affordable energy generation.

There will be more change in the next 10 years than utilities have faced in the last 100. And they had best get ready.

Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

Print Friendly

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

directs the Democratic Energy program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His seminal paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (energyselfreliantstates.org), and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at jfarrell@ilsr.org.



Back to Top ↑