How Solar Fits into the Clean Power Plan

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Yesterday President Obama unveiled the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. This plan is being met with raves from environmentalists and threats to sue from some states and coal plants. Here at PV Solar Report, our first question is: what does the plan mean for solar?

SEIA has said that they strongly support the Clean Power Plan. There are certainly many good reasons for this. The plan calls for a 32% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.

Of course this aspect of the plan was expected. In fact, the country has already reduced emissions by 15%, which is halfway to the 30% reduction that was originally proposed.

Renewables will be expected to account for 28% of U.S. generating capacity, up from the 22% initially proposed. The plan also includes an incentive program for states to get a head start on meeting these standards.

This Clean Energy Incentive Program specifically rewards states for choosing solar and wind. This is where things could get interesting for the solar industry.

“Solar energy is the most sensible compliance option for states under the Clean Power Plan. Solar works in all 50 states, has zero carbon emissions, creates more jobs per megawatt (MW) than any other technology, and can be deployed cost-effectively and quickly – all while improving grid reliability,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Now renewables are loosely defined, and can include natural gas and nuclear as well as wind and solar. However, there are many more good reasons to expect solar to emerge as a major player.

SEIA CPP-Meme3
Source: SEIA

The plan leaves it up to the individual states to decide how they achieve these goals. However, with states like Hawaii and California available to serve as models for other states to follow, solar could emerge as a major player.

Hawaii’s plan relies heavily on solar, wind and geothermal. The state has a goal of running on 100% renewables by 2045.

California has a target to reduce emissions by 40% of 1990 levels by 2030 and to get 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2030. It is the number one state in the country for solar installations, and can provide a roadmap for other states to follow.

Additionally, Hillary Clinton’s solar proposal could provide strong support for solar implementation of this plan. She has set a goal of a half a billion solar panels in her first term, and all homes to be powered by solar by 2027, if she becomes president.

In fact, Hillary Clinton has come out in support of the Clean Power Plan, stating that she would defend it if she became president.

We also know that President Obama is a strong supporter of the solar industry. His solar initiative, announced last month, aims to significantly increase the amount of installed solar in the U.S.

SEIA CPP-Meme6
Source: SEIA

Some solar critics of the plan worry about its emphasis on utility scale solar. However, the plan does make provisions for distributed solar that is measurable. So, as systems are developed to more accurately measure rooftop generation and meet this need, more residential systems could be included.

The Clean Power Plan will be the source of much debate for some time to come. Be sure to check back for our continuing CPP coverage.