APPA: Federal regulators should leave distributed solar power alone

The American Public Power Association (APPA) said March 10 that its Legislative & Resolutions Committee at the APPA 2015 Legislative Rally approved a new series of new policy resolutions, including one on solar energy development.

The Florida Municipal Electric Association, the Ohio Municipal Electric Association and the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association sponsored the solar power resolution, according to TransmissionHub.

As of October 2014, 6.4 GW of distributed solar power capacity has been installed in the U.S., and that is expected to increase by about 9 GW by 2016, and by 20 GW by 2020. Driving this exponential growth is the dramatic decrease in the price of solar panels, with the installed cost of residential and commercial photovoltaic (PV), the primary rooftop solar power technology, declining over 70 percent since 2008. Also driving this growth are state, federal, and electric utility incentives for solar panel installations, as well as state renewable portfolio (RPS) mandates.

“APPA believes that decisions about solar power generation and deployment should be made at the local or state level, with a transparent discussion of the costs and benefits compared to other generation sources,” the association said. “Community solar projects can often provide a more affordable and reliable option than rooftop solar. APPA will continue to educate federal policy makers about the impact of federal regulations and incentives on local decisions about solar power generation, and discourage federal mandates or one-size-fits-all proposals.”

The potential benefits of solar distributed generation (DG) include avoided generation capacity costs, ancillary services, and higher transmission costs, as well as potentially reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigation against outages on the grid. However, the resolution noted, deployment of solar DG can pose many operational challenges to electric utilities, including: grid system imbalances caused by solar power’s variability; load forecasting impairment; safety concerns for lineworkers; and increased strain on the electric distribution system.

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Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy's Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication's editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University.

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