It was another busy week of interesting contradictions for the solar industry. Utilities are adding record numbers of solar power—Hawaii’s biggest utility wants to go 100 percent renewable, and is making significant progress—while Southern California Edison (SCE) installed a whopping 1.6 gigawatts of solar last year. Meanwhile Suniva, which recently filed for bankruptcy, made a move that could impact the entire US solar industry when it filed for an import tariff petition that could make solar more costly in the US.
After Suniva, a US silicon PV manufacturer, filed for bankruptcy it filed a petition with the International Trade Commission for import tariffs on solar panels from other countries, particularly China. The move is considered controversial and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said it was against the move, observing that such a tariff could impact the majority of the solar industry negatively by raising the costs of solar farms and solar rooftops across the nation.
Last week the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) released its annual utility rankings showing which utilities installed the most solar power in the past year and, for the first time, how much energy storage utilities deployed in the past year. With 1,648 megawatts of newly installed solar power in 2016 SCE easily topped it’s rankings. It installed more than twice as much solar as any other utility. Meanwhile, the Imperial Irrigation District of Southern California took the top spot in energy storage with 30 megawatts of new energy storage installed last year.
While Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO), the largest utility in Hawaii didn’t top SEPA’s lists but it’s well on its way to generating all of its energy from renewable sources. The utility is now sourcing 26 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources. It aims to source all of its energy from renewable sources by 2040, five years before it’s required to by the state.
Hawaii has the nation’s most aggressive renewable energy standard but almost all states are interested in reform. Last week the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) unveiled its quarterly report, The 50 States of Solar on policy actions for the first quarter of 2017. The report found that fully 40 states took action or were looking to take actions on renewable energy in the first quarter. Some of actions taken or initiated were positive for solar power, like New York’s decision to implement a Value of Distributed Energy Resources tariff and others were more draconian, like new fees imposed on rooftop solar owners, for instance.
The solar industry is still working to drive costs for solar down further. One of the ways to do that is to make the soft costs cheaper. One of those soft costs is filling positions, apparently. The Solar Training Network’s new report, Solar Training and Hiring Insights 2017, found that the cost of recruiting an employee for the solar industry costs most companies $10,000 because there are a lack of qualified individuals. In some cases it can cost companies more than $50,000. The costs are in recruiting costs, but also in lost business the companies can’t access because they don’t have enough employees. The report found that creating solar training programs could save the industry $10 million, which would largely be passed on to customers.Tweet