This is part three in a five-part series about the SACE “Solar in the Southeast” 2017 Annual Report
To view other blogs in this series, click here.
Identifying Utility Solar Leaders and “SunRisers”
A highlight of the Solar in the Southeast 2017 Annual Report was shining a light on utilities, large and small, that are moving in the right direction! Our analysis used a metric of watts per customer (W/C) to rank utilities based on how much installed solar they have (or will have) in relation to the size of their customer base. This provides an unbiased way to compare utilities of varying sizes. Based on that metric of watts per customer, we found Duke Energy Progress, Duke Energy Carolinas and Georgia Power to be the current utility leaders on solar power. South Carolina Electric & Gas and Tampa Electric are the most notable “SunRisers” demonstrating leading levels of planned solar growth.
Duke Energy: The report shows how far Duke Energy is already ahead of the other largest utilities in the Southeast. In 2017, Duke’s local utilities had more than double the watts per customer solar ratio of the the four electric utilities owned by Southern Company. Duke Energy Progress (DEP) is particularly solar-friendly, with eastern North Carolina offering good sites and supportive state policy environment. We project all three Duke Energy southeastern utilities to be above the regional average in 2021.
Southern Company: Georgia Power has been the initial leader within the Southern Company system – responding to a prompt from the Georgia Public Service Commission. Customer demand for solar and utility leadership further encouraged a portfolio that extends across Alabama Power, Mississippi Power, and Gulf Power in Florida, as well.
Florida Power & Light: With 4.8 million customers, FPL is the largest utility in the Southeast. In response to a clear expression of customer interest in solar with two ballot initiatives in 2016, FPL has enhanced their solar development.
Oglethorpe Power: In general, electric cooperatives and municipal utilities have been slow to adopt solar. Oglethorpe’s solar power commitment is driven by its progressive members, particularly Cobb EMC.
Note: Projections for our Solar in the Southeast 2017 Annual Report were completed before President Trump decided to impose new tariffs on imports of solar cells and modules. Early assessments of the new tariffs suggest job losses of 23,000 in the solar industry this year (2018) and an 11% slowdown in solar installations through 2022 — with some southeastern states disproportionately affected. Much of the growth in the SACE forecast represents existing contracts and commitments that remain highly certain. And the new tariffs just became effective on February 7 so the SACE forecast can serve as a gauge of how significantly the President’s decision affects solar growth in the Southeast.