The Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association, a solar trade group, is working closely with the Tennessee Valley Authority utility to develop a more sustainable solar program that will alleviate the industry uncertainty created by disappearing incentives.
TVA closed its solar rebate program in April because demand had exceeded the cap the utility budgeted for the year. TennSEIA leaders immediately approached TVA leaders to come up with a solution.
“Consumer demand for solar energy has grown faster than TVA’s ability to adjust, therefore leaving the market underserved, restricting the investment of private capital and creating unnecessary uncertainty for businesses,” said Gil Hough, president of TenneSEIA. “TenneSEIA is committed to working with TVA.”
The utility agreed earlier this month to allow for 2.5 megawatts of additional rebates for this year, half of what TenneSEIA requested.
“Demand for solar energy is so high that the additional 2.5 megawatts of unused capacity will last for just one day,” according to a press release from TenneSEIA.
For long term sustainability of the solar market in the Tennessee River Valley, the trade organization is asking the utility to abandon arbitrary caps and develop a market-driven rebate program that never closes or places caps on solar development and instead continually decreases as demand grows and more solar capacity is installed.
“This kind of approach aligns supply and demand with the decreasing costs of installing solar,” according to the release
That alignment is essential to solar industry health and to creating a stable market for consumers, TenneSEIA officials said.
“Solar energy development programs should never close,” said John Nevel, a CPA and managing director of The Boro Group, who also serves on the TenneSEIA board of directors. “Consumers should never be denied access to the market and they should be fairly compensated for investing their own, private capital into generating electricity for a utility.”
TVA has agreed to discuss the idea at a meeting with solar industry leaders July 23.
TenneSEIA has also asked the utility to consider the true value of solar, something industry groups all over the country have recently started to advocate. The “true value” includes the savings to the utility in fuel, infrastructure and capital costs created by increased distributed generation.
TenneSEIA is also urging the utility to develop regulations that will allow third-party-owned solar systems. Power purchase agreements and solar leasing has proven an effective way to make solar more affordable to more people in other areas, according to a memo from TenneSEIA to TVA. And it could reduce some of the upfront expense for homeowners in the TVA service area, reducing the need for hefty rebates.
“TenneSEIA is grateful for TVA’s willingness to work with the industry, and we hope we can use this experience as a launching point for a robust and meaningful collaboration with TVA,” said Steve Johnson, president of LightWave Solar.