FERC Chair: Solar is Going to Overtake Everything

August 29, 2013


Need more evidence that we are in a new ball game?


If anybody doubts that federal energy regulators are aware of the rapidly changing electricity landscape, they should talk to Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” Wellinghoff told GTM last week in a sideline conversation at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

If a single drop of water on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium is doubled every minute, Wellinghoff said, a person chained to the highest seat would be in danger of drowning in an hour.

“That’s what is happening in solar. It could double every two years,” he said.

Indeed, as GTM Research’s MJ Shiao recently pointed out, in the next 2 1/2 years the U.S. will double its entire cumulative capacity of distributed solar — repeating in the span of a few short years what it originally took four decades to deploy.

Geothermal, wind, and other resources will supplement solar, Wellinghoff said. “But at its present growth rate, solar will overtake wind in about ten years. It is going to be the dominant player. Everybody’s roof is out there.”

And those other resources have not seen declining prices like solar has. “Solar PV is $0.70 or $0.80 per watt to manufacture. Residential rooftop is $4 to $5 per watt. But they are going to drive that down to $2 and then to $1 per watt.”

Advanced storage technologies also promise lower costs, he said. “Once it is more cost-effective to build solar with storage than to build a combustion turbine or wind for power at night, that is ‘game over.’ At that point, it will be all about consumer-driven markets.”

Greentechmedia again:

If the price of grid-scale energy storage fell to zero dollars per megawatt-hour, regulators and utilities would still be puzzled in how to deploy the boon of energy storage.

That’s because storage doesn’t fit neatly into the electrical utility’s regulatory universe of generation, distribution, and load — or into the utility rate recovery structure.

But that regulatory uncertainty is starting to clear.

It started with FERC Order 755, enacted in 2011, a ruling from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that increased the pay for “fast” responding sources like batteries or flywheels that are bidding into frequency regulation service markets. Flywheel energy storage operator, Beacon, sells into this market.

That opportunity for storage got bigger recently with the issuance of Order 784. It pits fast batteries, flow batteries and flywheels against slower gas- or coal-fired plants in the ancillary services market.

“FERC Order 784 is a huge step forward for energy storage, as it will help to open ancillary services markets for storage project developers. Also, it expands FERC Order 755 pay-for-performance requirements to ensure that speed and accuracy, two attributes where storage excels, is considered when utilities purchase regulation service for transmission. Finally, the new accounting and reporting rules introduced in this order will help utilities achieve rate recovery for energy storage equipment,” wrote Janice Lin, Managing Partner, Strategen Consulting and Co-Founder and Executive Director of the California Energy Storage Alliance in an email to GTM.

Here’s some relevant language from the the ruling:

The Commission is also requiring each public utility transmission provider to add to its OATT [open access transmission tariff] Schedule 3a statement that it will take into account the speed and accuracy of regulation resources in its determination of reserve requirements for Regulation and Frequency Response service. […] Finally, the Commission is revising the accounting and reporting requirements under its Uniform System of Accounts for public utilities and licensees (USofA) and its forms, statements, and reports…to better account for and report transactions associated with the use of energy storage devices in public utility operations.

Here’s a link to the document in full.

This ruling joins other recent storage rulings by the CPUC in California which ask Southern California Edison (SCE), one of the big three California IOUs, to find 50 megawatts of energy storage by 2021. The CPUC is also working on developing protocols forinterconnecting energy storage.

21 Responses to “FERC Chair: Solar is Going to Overtake Everything”

  1. Syd Baumel Says:

    We do have scientific estimates. Bottom line, from a detailed discussion here: http://helixrecruiting.com/helix-recruiting-solar-david-anthony

    “If we use the NCI estimated U.S. rooftop PV technical potential of 712.2 GW in 2015, assuming 100% market penetration, we can estimate how much electricity energy can be generated by such power. If we assume 10 hours/day and 200 days/year with sunshine, the total rooftop PV generated electricity energy will be 1,424 billion kWh, or 1,424 TWh, in U.S. by 2015. Compared to the total U.S. electricity generation of 3,953 TWh in 2009, the technical potential of electricity generation from rooftop PV can take over 1/3 of U.S. electricity consumption demand.”

    I think that as prices fall and PV tech improves, ANY surface with a reasonable amount of solar exposure – walls, windows, awnings, sidewalks, driveways, roads, highways – will eventually become desirable PV real estate.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      It’s not clear if they are taking the solar power generation curve into account. It’s not going to be constant throughout the day.

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