New figures released by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) reflect the central role utilities will continue to play in the growth and change of the U.S. solar industry in emerging trends that have been identified as current and future market drivers, according to the organization.
Utilities are in the early phases of developing new and innovative solar options for a full range of customers — residential, commercial and corporate — who are gaining interest in renewable energy sources with some utilities exploring community solar, third-party solar leasing, green energy programs and energy storage.
Solar is gaining increased levels of public acceptance, and utility solar is now the industry’s largest market segment. The report highlights 49 percent growth in the utility-scale solar market in the United States from 2013 to 2014 with accumulated solar capacity currently at 10.7 GW at more than 475,000 locations across the county.
The results of the report demonstrate how consumer interest and state mandates are driving utilities to proactively explore new programs.
“Solar is reaching a threshold of mainstream legitimacy, for utilities and the general public, as prices have become more competitive and the number of solar customers continues its upswing,” said SEPA President and CEO Julia Hamm.
Utility solar is now the largest market segment, but uncertainty has emerged as utilities close in on meeting state-mandated renewable energy standards and developers anticipate the step-down of the federal investment tax credit coming in 2017.
SEPA has identified customer compensation and rate design issues at the forefront — net metering, value of solar and customer fees — as utilities, the solar industry and consumer stakeholders seek fair and cost-effective paths toward increased levels of distributed solar adoption, and anticipates differing solutions across states and utilities.
Although no best practices have emerged yet, SEPA envisions a future where collaboration between utilities and other stakeholders will ensure continued growth of distributed generation, utility-scale investments and innovative customer offerings.