Solar Power: Opportunities and Challenges – 2/7/16

2016 has only just begun but solar power is already set to have a year filled with record capacity additions and regulatory battles.

Japan, Germany, India, China, and the US are a few of the most vital sources of growth for solar power capacity. As five of the world’s largest economies, they are also battlegrounds for the future of electricity production.

Japan’s cabinet recently approved overhauls to the four years old incentive program for clean energy. The cabinets introduced auctions for solar projects similar to those used by Germany and India as a means of managing installations and cutting power costs. According BloombergBusiness, Japan projects renewables will provide as much as 24 percent of its power supply in 2030, according to a plan announced in July.

China added 15.1 GW of new solar last year for a total of 43.2 GW according to the National Energy Administration, which puts the country ahead of Germany in total capacity. China’s solar-based electricity production has increased by over 1300% since 2011 amid the country’s attempts to cut emissions. Solar and wind producers have benefited from heavy investment by the Chinese government as it has tried to reduce a reliance on coal that has caused dangerously high levels of air pollution.

For the US, the battle over solar’s future is still undecided. Opposition from utilities and skeptics in government has given proponents of the solar industry a difficult time securing policy victories but many recent successes show building momentum for favorable legislation. In the case of SolarCity, arguably one of the most visible solar companies, anti-solar policies of states like Nevada, where the PUCN reduced net metering return rates and increased fees for residential PV producers,  have been balanced out by policy wins in states like California, where regulators have supported preservation of retail payments for residential rooftop PV. Though news has been mixed for the company, its ability to stand up to utilities indicates growing political clout for large solar companies.

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