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The Sol Source Solar Report: January 2018

The Sol SOURCE is a monthly journal that our team distributes to our network of clients and solar stakeholders. Our newsletter contains energy statistics, trends, and observations gained through monthly interviews with our team, and it incorporates news from a variety of industry resources.

Below, we have included excerpts from the January 2018 edition. To receive future Journals, please subscribe or email SOURCE@solsystems.com.

STATE MARKETS

Massachusetts – It’s been nearly two years since we began discussing the end to the SREC II program. Multiple SREC II extensions, countless stakeholder meetings, and dozens of rumors and speculation later, there is finally certainty in the Massachusetts solar program. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has released pricing for its SMART program. Even with new tariffs and high interconnection costs, pricing is looking strong in most utility territories. Only WMECO’s rates are lower, potentially because electricity pricing is not as high or because a plethora of projects were submitted on vacant land. Despite this, projects can still be built in WMECO territory, especially with adders, and when conscious of size. Site owners in this territory will have to accept a lease rate that is lower than what their neighbors in National Grid cities and towns will be receiving.

Interested in pursuing solar and want to understand how you’d fare under the new SMART pricing? Email anna.noucas@solsystems.com.

New Jersey – Legislation to increase the demand for solar in New Jersey passed the Senate in early January, only to be pocket vetoed by Governor Christie on his way out the door. With a new, pro-solar administration now in place, solar’s odds just got better. Governor Phil Murphy campaigned on a 100% renewable portfolio standard, and only a couple days ago, we were wondering if he would support standalone solar legislation or wait for more comprehensive legislation that encompasses solar, wind, other renewable energy sources, and some sort of subsidy for nuclear. A lot can happen in only a couple days. Solar legislation has now been included in the zero emission credit (ZEC) nuclear bill and amended as S-877. We’re watching to see if the legislature passes this energy bill soon and sends it to Governor Murphy for his signature.

Regardless of the legislative vehicle, we are optimistic about the future of solar under Governor Murphy. We know the market well and are proud to have developed the largest rooftop solar project in the state.

Virginia – Each year, a flood of pro-solar bills is introduced to the Virginia legislature. Given the sheer numbers of bills (which often lack of coordination with other powerful stakeholders), the majority of solar bills die an early death. (We recall fondly a time we trekked to Richmond for an MDV-SEIA lobby day, only to find out that all of the solar bills had died just right before our arrival. We have also lost track of how many times someone has tried to introduce a mandatory renewable portfolio standard or third-party financing bill, which are always a long shot, even after the November 2017 blue wave.

Enter the Rubin Group, a stakeholder group comprised of the environmental community, solar, investor-owned utilities, and coops. The goal of the Rubin Group is to build consensus around pro-solar policies, craft the bills, and get them passed. The most notable Rubin Group legislation this year is SB 284 / HB 1215, which deems 4GW of utility-scale solar to be in the “public interest” by 2024, just in line with the federal investment tax credit. If passed and future utility RFPs are issued, this could provide an important relief valve to the pent-up utility-scale solar pipeline; there are currently 7GW – of varying viability – in the interconnection queue (and that is only what’s public).

Meanwhile, Virginia has made it to Amazon’s HQ2 shortlist. Does any of that have to do with the ease and low cost by which corporates may buy offsite solar to power their operations? People think of Amazon as a Seattle company, but they do have a few billion dollars of assets in data center towns just outside Dulles airport, and Bezos does own a house behind our old office. It could happen!

SOLAR CHATTER

  • On January 22, the Trump administration issued tariffs on foreign-made solar modules and cells, putting 23,000 jobs at risk in one of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy. While the tariffs were largely expected and much of the market had assumed a 30% tariff in its pricing since the International Trade Commission (refresh with the December and November issues of SOURCE for more information), the near-term impacts are undeniable. GTM Research expects California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, & South Carolina to be the hardest hit markets by megawatts installed. A 30% tariff is a far cry from the 78 cents/Watt price floor initially requested, and we are grateful for the advocacy of the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in mitigating this impact.
  • The “bomb cyclone” had a material impact on wholesale power prices along the East Coast. PJM average prices were ~$200/MWh the first week of January, which was approximately six times higher than the average price in 2017.
  • Soiling is often a concern, as dirty panels could reduce productivity of solar modules. To combat this – and protect investments – there is at least one major player making glass with anti-soiling coatings that could reduce the daily soiling rate by up to 50%. It will be interesting to see how much uptake this product gets with module manufacturers in the next few product cycles. In other non-tariff related module trends, it appears that module manufacturers are starting to compete on warranty terms, extending product warranties and decreasing warranted degradation rates. This is a sign of increasing confidence in the stability of modules over time, or manufacturers trying to differentiate their product with quantifiable measures of quality rather than just reputation or a “Tier 1” rating.
  • After several failed attempts, the Ohio legislature is trying yet again to repeal their modest renewable portfolio standard. A similar attempt failed last year, and the year prior, legislation passed but was met with a veto by Republican Governor John Kasich. If passed again without a veto-proof majority, Kasich could veto again, but what about 2019? 2018 is an election year, and the change in administration could impact Ohio’s renewable energy future to come.

ABOUT SOL SYSTEMS

Sol Systems, a national solar finance and development firm, delivers sophisticated, customized services for institutional, corporate, and municipal customers. Sol is employee-owned, and has been profitable since inception in 2008. Sol is backed by Sempra Energy, a $25+ billion energy company.

Over the last eight years, Sol Systems has delivered 650MW of solar projects for Fortune 100 companies, municipalities, universities, churches, and small businesses. Sol now manages over $650 million in solar energy assets for utilities, banks, and Fortune 500 companies.

Inc. 5000 recognized Sol Systems in its annual list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies for four consecutive years. For more information, please visit www.solsystems.com.

Photo Credit: Martin Abegglen via Flickr

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