The third annual “Solar in the Southeast” report from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) highlights solar data and trends throughout the region, including Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Using the metric “watts per customer,” which measures the amount of installed solar relative to the total number of customers served, SACE provides analysis with detailed information at the regional, state and utility level.
Projections for solar growth are significantly higher than last year’s forecast in some key Southeast markets. Yet, as previous reports have noted, growth patterns remain varied, with a clear disparity in growth between the states and utilities.
“The unbiased watts per customer metric continues to shine a light on which states and utilities demonstrate leadership year after year and which are continuing to fall behind and need a serious course correction to avoid denying customers the economic and environmental benefits of clean solar power,” said Bryan Jacob, solar program director at SACE and report author. “’SunBlockers’ should look to the ‘SunRisers’ for how to increase installed solar capacity in their service territories and states.”
Stephen A. Smith, executive director SACE added: “We are pleased to see key utilities in some southeastern states continuing to grow our region’s vast solar resource. Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina are all making significant progress, but this begs the question of why Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi continue to lag behind. Leadership in legislative and regulatory policy coupled with real leadership by certain utilities has the South becoming a regional solar powerhouse.”
Legislative, regulatory and utility policies vary considerably across the Southeast. These either spur or stifle solar growth, and 2019 was a clear example of that. Favorable examples include a legislative driver in South Carolina, regulatory drivers in Georgia and utility-led drivers in Florida. Adverse policies continue to emerge from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as it continues to block solar production in the seven states it serves.
By the end of 2019, the Southeast had achieved a major milestone: installed capacity of more than 10,000 MW (slightly less on a full-year operational equivalent basis, 9,622 MW). SACE continues to raise its forecast for the ensuing years. Projects like the SolarTogether program from Florida Power & Light (1,490 MW over the next two years) contribute to that increase.
SACE projects solar in the Southeast to double by 2022 and approach 25,000 MW, 10% of total capacity, by 2023. Currently, North Carolina holds the number two spot of installed solar capacity behind California, until 2021 when Florida is projected to outpace the Tarheel State and move up on the leaderboard.
Utilities that demonstrate the highest solar ambition, measured as the increase in their W/C solar ratio of the four-year forecast period, are awarded the SunRiser distinction. Walton EMC commissioned additional solar projects for Facebook to remain the top SunRiser in our region. Three of the seven SunRisers this year have earned that distinction in each of our annual reports to date: Duke Energy Progress, Tampa Electric and Dominion Energy South Carolina. Notably, Gulf Power made its debut on the SunRiser list as it prepares for integration with Florida Power & Light.
Seminole Electric, the North Carolina Electric Cooperatives and TVA were designated SunBlockers, or utilities that haven’t encouraged as much solar growth. The plans for all three utilities over the next four years (through 2023) remain below 2019’s region averages.