How Utilities are Leading the Renewable Revolution
THERE IS A MYTH that the electric power industry is not committed to renewable energy. Frankly, I think the facts speak for themselves.
EEI’s members are transitioning to a cleaner generating fleet and are enhancing the electric power grid to meet the needs of our 21st-century economy. Not only are they searching for new and innovative ways to generate electricity — and to use it wisely — they are also leading the renewable revolution.
There’s no question that renewable energy offers tremendous potential for the future. That’s why electric companies are making significant investments to integrate a skyrocketing amount of large-scale renewable energy resources into the grid each year. In fact, about half of the new electricity generation capacity added over the past few years uses renewable energy sources, and total renewable capacity is expected to more than triple by 2040.
One area of incredible growth and opportunity is solar. The U.S. has almost 11-GW of operating large-scale utility solar capacity. Electric companies have installed the majority of generating capacity to date. Companies are able to offer customers a number of solar choices through large-scale solar projects, community solar programs and community partnerships, residential rooftop solar programs, inancing and third-party investments; green power programs; and other incentives.
Studies like the one conducted by The Brattle Group are showing that from the standpoint of cost, equity, and environmental benefits, large-scale solar is a crucial resource.
Community/large-scale solar makes solar accessible to more customers and is a more cost-effective choice. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, only about 25% of U.S. homes are appropriate for rooftop solar. For residents in homes that are not suitable for solar, such as renters and multi-family dwellers, community solar is an ideal option that benefits more people.
Electric companies also have been at the forefront of the solar revolution in their partnerships with technology innovators to transform the grid and help provide safe, reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean electricity to customers. These efforts are bearing fruit. But the facts speak louder than words. For example: Southern Company is working with PowerSecure, an independent power producer, on $100 million in new solar projects, and recently announced its fourth solar project with First Solar.