China’s Slowdown, Digitalization and FERC’s Ruling

Article RoundupIndustry Issues

China’s Domination of the PV Industry: Veni, Vidi, Vici

By Paula Mints for REW

After discussing China’s domination of global solar PV manufacturing in some depth, Mints goes on to discuss the government’s efforts to slow down its market. She points to DG capping, pausing in utility-scale deployment, reduction in grid curtailment and a move toward a bidding scheme. Mints predicts that a slowdown in China would mean flattening and possible shrinking for the market globally and that it would behoove solar players around the world to brace themselves for some serious repercussions which, given the size of the Chinese market, will be slow in coming, but inevitable.

Key quote: “The lesson is that the solar industry is still young, still immature, still struggling to find balance and that planning ahead requires an acceptance of the ever present risk of market collapse.”

Intersolar session accentuates fragmented value of solar across the United States

By Kelsey Misbrener for SPW

Misbrener reports on the policy session at InterSolar called “Net Metering in Flux: Where States Are Heading on NEM Changes,” featuring a number of speakers. Speakers discussed how utilities are trying to push fixed demand charges on solar customers, without a whole lot of success. They looked at how abrupt and poorly planned shifts away from net metering decimates smaller installers, as in HA, while carefully executed changes, as in NY with the use of the VDER solar model, correctly value solar after NEM is phased out.

Key quote: “There is no established value of solar nationwide, and there likely won’t be in the near future.”

How Digitalization Is Ushering in a New Solar Era

By Azeez Mohammed for REW

Mohammed first points to the role the digitalization of the solar industry will have for solar developers. He discusses the impact of the ability to compare real-time asset performance with a virtual asset replica that works under optimum conditions. Result: plant operators are more likely to enable peak productivity and head off operational headaches. More broadly, he points out how digitalization can enable a true “smart grid” that uses battery storage and smart release of solar generated energy as well as superior customer service. He wraps up with a description of his company’s efforts to test this all out.

Key quote: “By applying a predictive philosophy…maintenance is carried out only when it’s required, based on data-driven intelligence. This reduces downtime, lowers costs and maximizes revenues — with no compromise around performance effectiveness.”

A Year After Trump’s Paris Pullout, U.S. Companies Are Driving a Renewables Boom

By Brad Plumer for the NY Times

Plumer points out that dozens of Fortune 500 companies are particularly active in honoring the renewable energy terms of the Paris climate deal, despite Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the deal last year. While he argues that this continued influx of investment of billions into wind and solar projects is driving growth, he looks at the long term impact of these efforts. He discusses the various ways companies are investing – from large scale solar installations to long term PPAs to build new wind and solar facilities – and also looks at the risks and limitations involved for these companies as well.

Key quote: “A few companies, most notably Google, are now wrestling with an even harder question: What if simply buying up large quantities of wind and solar power isn’t enough?”

How FERC’s New Ruling Is Upending the Country’s Biggest Capacity Market

By Jeff St. John for GTM

St. John reports that FERC’s decision to reject PJM’s argument that its capacity market was being harmed by state-subsidized resources like state renewable portfolio standard programs backing wind and solar will shake things up. FERC declared PJM’s current capacity market “unjust and unreasonable” and began a plan much more open to states setting their own energy parameters, giving PJM just 90 days to create a new alternative to its capacity market. St. John points out how critics of the decision argue that this will create uncertainty for state-supported power plants and renewable resources and means that FERC is muscling in to undercut state clean energy policy. They also say that this heralds the removal of policies that keep the power markets fair and efficient. However, the ruling could also push states to overhaul their portfolios and reduce reliance on a capacity market construct that has not always served them.

Key quote: “Through its action today, the majority signals its intent to adopt, through a 90-day paper hearing, the most sweeping changes to the PJM capacity construct since the market’s inception more than a decade ago…Given this lack of clarity, today’s order injects significant uncertainty into how the PJM capacity construct will work going forward, and therefore how states and market participants should prepare for these transformative changes.” FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, one of two dissenting “no” votes to Friday’s ruling

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