As solar projects are becoming more prevalent in the U.S. and more people are interested in going solar at home and work, the U.S. needs to explore new strategies for financing solar. Chief among them is getting more private capital into investing in solar. That’s the focus of a new study from the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE), California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF), and Climate Policy Initiative.
The study "Strategies to Scale-Up U.S. Renewable Energy Investment" was introduced at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum-Wall Street. It was released as Congress is showing more interest in the debate around policies like the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and master limited partnerships (MLPs). The study discusses the how governments’ renewable energy incentives at all levels have increased access to private capital to grow the U.S.’s renewable energy industries. It also discusses how policies can help increase access to private capital to make renewable energy projects easier to finance in the future.
"Since 2004, the private sector has invested more than $300 billion in the U.S. renewable energy market, and as a result we've seen a great increase in job creation, project development, and cost reduction,” said Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, ACORE CEO. “We need to continue to educate the public, promote stable policies and create additional financing mechanisms for renewable energy to accelerate America's journey to a more secure and prosperous clean energy future."
Among other things, the study looks at how renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) have spurred more than $100 billion in renewable energy projects over the past decade. The majority of states, 29, now have RPSs, ACORE observed, stating the RPSs have maximized private investment in renewable energy projects. “All 50 states should aim to strengthen or create a policy framework aimed at leveraging private capital into this industry,” it observed.
“More private capital wants into this industry and there are many ways, both proven and innovative, that can accomplish this,” said Dan Adler, CalCEF managing director. “It's vital that policymakers of all types including public utility commissions across the country take the steps available to foster more private capital to power this industry. These policies have worked, but policymakers can do more to unlock the true potential of the private market to support this industry."
The study recommended that the country and states increase access to low-cost capital from the private sector by strengthening state RPSs and long-term tax incentives like the investment tax credits. It also suggested that the U.S. should create policies allowing MLPs and real estate investment trusts (REITs), which have been used to finance other sorts of capital intensive projects, like fossil fuel energy. “This combination of complementary, yet evolving federal and state policy remains essential to the continued scale up of private low-cost capital investment in the sector,” ACORE said in the study.
It also pointed out that for renewable energy technologies to succeed, the playing field between renewable and conventional resources must be leveled. “To be clear, this level of policy support is nothing that has not previously been provided to the energy technologies of the past or is currently provided to incumbent, non-renewable energy industries,” the report stated.
“Properly designed policies can succeed in leveraging existing and new sources of capital and investor pools,” the report said. To get there requires keeping and strengthening current policies and exploring new policies and regulations. Together, both strategies will make sure that renewables will continue to grow today and spur more private sector investment in the future.