This week has seen some of the most exciting developments for solar in 2015. Read on to learn more about all of the solar energy news for the week of December 14, 2015.
Congress Close to Passing Five-Year Extension of Solar Tax Credits
In a move that surprised many, Congress has reached an agreement to include a five-year extension of the federal investment tax credit (ITC) for solar and wind energy in its 2016 spending bill. Many industry stakeholders anticipated a down-to-the-wire debate around the ITC immediately prior to its expiration at the end of 2016. While the bill is still awaiting its final vote, all signs point to the budget passing later this week. The extension of the tax credits for solar and wind combined are expected to add more than $73 billion of investment in renewable energy, resulting in enough electricity to power 8 million U.S. homes.
UN Reaches Climate Agreement at Paris Conference
After two long weeks of discussion and global anticipation, 195 nations emerged from the COP21 Climate Change Conference with a signed agreement. Before we explain why the climate conference accord will benefit solar power, let’s break down what the UN participating countries voluntarily agreed to:
- Peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve net zero emissions in the second half of the century
- Limit global temperature increases to 2°C and aim for a more aggressive goal of 1.5°C
- Finance climate reform in developing nations with $100 billion per year by 2020
Following the Paris Agreement, the renewable world has seen a boost in confidence, and markets are reacting favorably.
California to Keep Retail Rates for Net-Metered Households
In the latest development in California’s net metering battle, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced this week that it will dismiss efforts by California utilities to lower credits for net-metered households. Instead, the CPUC will continue crediting solar homeowners at the retail rate of electricity. Considering California is the leading solar state in the nation, this decision bodes well for the solar industry. Many stakeholders expect regulators in other states (such as Massachusetts) to follow suit and maintain retail rates for their net metering programs.
Governor Cuomo Boosts Community Solar Adoption in New York
New York State has recently been in the solar spotlight thanks to Governor Cuomo’s effort to launch a community solar initiative in the state. The initiative creates opportunities for homeowners whose roofs are not qualified for PV installation to go solar through shared ground installations called solar gardens. The announcement also supports New York’s Solarize campaign – a grassroots effort to bring local solar installers and buyers to the market and provide support to communities who want to expand adoption of solar.
Solar Stocks, Shares On the Rise Following Paris Agreement
Following the recent Paris climate accord, and with news of the solar ITC’s likely extension, solar stocks have been soaring across the board. Major companies such as SolarCity, Vivint Solar, SunPower and SunEdison have all seen shares rise this week, demonstrating that investors are excited about the future of the solar industry. If the ITC is extended for 5 years, as talks in Congress have suggested, solar should see increased growth rates following the boom year of 2015.
Your Weekend Solar Reading
It’s easy to see the impact that solar is having in major green states such as California and Hawaii. However, fewer people are aware of the renewable revolution in West Virginia, where many homeowners are still skeptical of solar power. According to John Christensen, the director of the state’s largest solar installer, this year’s solar growth in West Virginia can be almost entirely attributed to the federal ITC. In a state where promoting green energy is an uphill battle, it takes a major financial incentive like the ITC to encourage renewable adoption. Christensen fears that the elimination of the solar ITC would be a crushing blow for solar in the Mountain State, illustrating yet again how crucial the tax credit is for the solar industry.