When Tennessee Valley Authority reopened its solar program Aug. 1, all 2.5 megawatts of allowable solar development were accounted for within hours and the program was immediately closed again.
The Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association is responding with requests for the utility to reconsider how it manages its solar program.
“TVA’s current program for solar energy development leaves the market underserved and as a result, it creates a boom-bust cycle for the industry,” said Gil Hough, president of TenneSEIA. “There is a proven, market based remedy for the unintended and unnecessary risks to businesses and jobs that TVA’s current solar development program provides and TenneSEIA looks forward to exploring those options with TVA management and its board of directors.”
Instead of fixed and arbitrary annual limits on the solar program, TenneSEIA is asking TVA to create a market-driven program that reduces incentives as more solar energy capacity is installed, according to a release from the advocacy organization.
Only three of the 64 companies that applied to be able to install new solar energy projects in TVA’s service area were approved before the program hit its 2.5-megawatt cap. Those three companies will install roughly 20 percent of the projects that were proposed to TVA as part of the brief reopening of the solar program.
“We knew the 2.5 megawatts would be inadequate to meet demand for solar energy in Tennessee and it was, ” said Steve Johnson, president of LightWave Solar. “Tennesseans want to invest their own, private capital to build, operate and maintain clean energy generation for TVA and they cannot because TVA’s solar programs are closed. Consumers should be fairly compensated for investing their own, private capital into generating electricity for a utility.”
The utility closed its solar energy program in April as it became clear that demand would exceed approved resources.
TenneSEIA was able to convince the utility to grant the remaining 2.5 megawatts before the board votes on its 2014 budget Aug. 22.
TVA officials also agreed to discuss the idea of incorporating a market-driven approach to the solar program and met with TenneSEIA leaders July 23.
While the meeting was informative and cordial, Hough said in a statement that he’s not certain TVA will follow through with a larger solar energy portfolio in 2014.
“Therefore, TenneSEIA has reached out to the board of directors to support the immediate and long-term interests of the solar industry, public, and TVA,” Hough said in a statement.
The organization has asked TVA to consider the “true value” of solar, which includes a private capital investment in infrastructure and equipment that serves the utility and helps it to avoid fuel and transmission costs, among others.