It was another active week in the solar industry, with several major developments that garnered recognition for solar power and renewables as a whole. The growing popularity of community solar, a major funding announcement for Indian tribes and Native Alaskan communities, and strong solar support from Democratic presidential candidates are three key headlines from this week’s Solar Energy News.
Utility Dive Releases State of the Electric Utility Report
This week, Utility Dive released its annual State of the Electric Utility report with results of its yearly survey of electric utility executives across the country.The report makes one thing very clear: as the popularity of energy efficiency and clean energy continues to grow, utilities are starting to reimagine the role that they play in the U.S. electricity industry. An overwhelming majority of respondents – all but three percent – acknowledged that their business model needs to evolve to accommodate changes in the industry. More than half see energy storage and distributed generation as areas for expansion, and 56 percent of respondents are actively exploring community solar options for their ratepayers.
Rise in Community Solar Will Change Electric Grid Model
Community solar is gaining popularity in the U.S., and experts are now predicting that the market for shared community solar gardens could be worth $8 to $16 billion by 2020. Recognizing this, President Obama has supported community solar with $520 million in funding through crucial legislation such as the Clean Power Plan and Investment Tax Credit. Because community solar is usually “behind the meter” and acts as a non-utility energy supplier, industry experts believe that community solar is key to disrupting the centralized electric grid model.
DOE Provides $7 Million in Funding to Indian Tribes, Alaska Natives
This week, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced new funding to support strategic energy solutions for Indian tribes and Native Alaskan communities. This $7 million project follows a newly published DOE report examining solar potential in Alaska, which found that solar can help stabilize energy costs and provide reliable and resilient energy in rural areas that lack energy infrastructure. The funding will help to build a network of trained regional energy experts who can act as thought leaders among Indian tribes and Native Alaskan communities. According to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, this project aims to help these communities “find energy solutions that fit with their unique needs.”
Democratic Candidates Take Strong Stance Against Nevada PUC Decision
With the Nevada caucus right around the corner, the Democratic candidates are campaigning hard in the Silver State. One topic that keeps coming up? Solar energy. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are both in favor of clean energy as a tool to combat the growing threat of climate change, and Nevada’s recent controversial net metering changes have been a major issue for both candidates. Sanders made headlines in December when he called the PUC’s original decision to increase bills for solar customers at a Las Vegas rally “the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” Clinton recently announced her support of a federal amendment that would prevent retroactive rate changes for solar customers – the very issue at stake in Nevada.