February 4, 2017

DONALD WHO?:

US utilities seek sun as Trump sides with coal, fossil fuels (EMERY P. DALESIO, 2/04/17, AP)

"Solar growth is so extensive and has so much momentum behind it that we're at the point where you can't put the genie back in the bottle," said Jeffrey R.S. Brownson, a Pennsylvania State University professor who studies solar adoption. "You either learn how to work with this new medium, solar energy, or you're going to face increasing conflicts."

The transition away from coal-burning power plants now seems unstoppable, even if Trump scraps rules requiring utilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The average lifetime cost for utility-scale wind and solar generation in the U.S. is now cheaper than coal or nuclear and comparable to natural gas, according to financial advisory firm Lazard, which compared the fuel costs without their federal tax subsidies.

Wind and solar were expected to account for about two-thirds of the new electricity generation capacity added to the nation's power grid in 2016, outpacing fossil fuel expansion for a third straight year, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

And even though big investor-owned utilities operate as legal monopolies in many states, the bill-lowering appeal of rooftop solar for many homeowners could eventually threaten their ability to finance and manage the power grids.

These trends help explain why utilities are increasingly adopting a model called "community solar," or "shared solar," which involves customers agreeing to buy or lease solar panels on large arrays built for the utility, or to buy the power they produce. That electricity is then credited off utility bills under contracts that can lock in power prices for 10 years or more.

Posted by at February 4, 2017 7:23 PM

  

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