US solar industry defies predictions to post growth in 2020
US solar installations are expected to increase by 43 percent this year, just short of pre-pandemic forecasts, as the industry recovers quicker than expected from the virus-related slowdown, according to a report by the Solar Energies Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie.
According to the US Solar Market Insight Q4 2020 report, the country’s solar companies installed 3.8GW of new solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in Q3, a 9 percent increase from Q2 installations, and a record 19GW of new solar capacity was installed this year.
“This report points to the incredible resilience of our companies and workers in the face of the pandemic and continued demand for clean, affordable electricity sources,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“It also speaks to our ability to support economic growth, even in our darkest moments. While solar will continue to grow, the next administration and Congress have an opportunity to help the solar industry reach its Solar+ Decade goals, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and tackling the climate crisis.”
The report highlights that the residential solar market – which was the hardest hit by the business impacts of the pandemic – beat recovery expectations by growing 14 percent over Q2. However, it remained below Q1 levels.
“Logically, the states with the biggest installation declines in Q2 also had the biggest recoveries in Q3, such as New York and New Jersey where restrictions were substantial,” explains Michelle Davis, senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie. “Business model adaptations, such as virtual sales tactics and pricing promotions, continued to pay dividends through the summer and fall.”
The utility-scale market was the primary driver of Q3 installations with 2.7 GW of new capacity, which represents 70 percent of all solar capacity brought online in Q3. Sun Belt states lead the way on new capacity additions this year, the report states, pointing out that Texas and Florida have both installed more than 2GW through Q3 2020.
‘For perspective, that is nearly the amount of solar that each of those states installed over 2018 and 2019 combined. The utility-scale project pipeline ballooned to a record 69.2 GW, and the U.S. is now forecast to reach 100 GW of cumulative installed solar capacity by mid-2021,’ the report states.
- In Q3, the US solar market installed 3.8GWdc of solar PV, up 9 percent from Q2 as the industry began recovering from the worst impacts of the pandemic
- A total of 9.5GWdc of new utility PV power purchase agreements was announced in Q3, bringing the contracted pipeline to a record total of 69 GWdc
- Solar accounted for 43 percent of all new electricity generating capacity added in the US through Q3 this year, beating all other generation technologies
- Wood Mackenzie forecasts a similar figure for annual growth in 2020, with more than 19 GWdc of installations expected
- Forecasts for 2021-2025 put total solar installations above 107GWdc, a 10GWdc increase from last quarter driven primarily by healthy increases to the utility-scale solar pipeline
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.