UK suppliers hit by soaring gas, electricity prices; US hikes 2021 solar forecast to 26 GW

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UK government considers support loans for energy firms as prices rocket

The UK government is considering issuing loans to energy companies that take on customers from suppliers that cease trading due to soaring gas and electricity prices, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said September 21.

Energy companies asked the government for support after rising gas prices hiked wholesale electricity prices across Europe and prompted several suppliers to cease trading.

Energy-intensive companies including suppliers of CO2 and steel also called for state intervention after high energy prices prompted them to temporarily shut down facilities.

UK default household tariffs are capped by energy regulator Ofgem, preventing suppliers from passing on higher wholesale costs to consumers.

US raises 2021 solar forecast to 26 GW after record second quarter

Research group Wood Mackenzie has raised its US solar installation forecast for 2021 by 2 GW to over 26 GW after record installation rates continued in the second quarter.

Solar installations in the second quarter rose 45% on a year ago to 5.7 GW, following a 46% jump in the first quarter, as developers chased initial tax credit deadlines, the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie said in their latest quarterly report.

Developers installed a record 4.2 GW of utility-scale capacity in the second quarter, despite higher commodity prices and supply chain disruption, the report said. Average system prices for fixed-tilt and single-axis tracking projects hiked by 12.5% and 11.6% quarter on quarter.

Last year, US solar installations rose by 43% to a record 19.2 GW as developers overcame Covid disruptions to meet annual tax credit deadlines. In December, Congress took the pressure off developers by agreeing to extend the investment tax credit (ITC) for solar projects by two years as part of a COVID-19 recovery package. The solar ITC will now remain at 26% for projects that start construction in 2021-2022 and fall to 22% in 2023 and 10% in 2024.

Wood Mackenzie predicts "double-digit" annual growth for utility-scale solar for the next three years as developers install projects that secured ITCs at 26%.

"Even as the ITC steps down to 10% by 2024, the utility-scale solar sector will remain at least a 20 GW annual market between 2024 and 2026 thanks to the growing demand for clean energy and the decreasing cost of solar," it said.

                                            US PV installation forecast

                                                                  (Click image to enlarge)

Source: Wood Mackenzie, SEIA, September 2021

The outlook could rise further if Congress agrees sweeping support measures for renewable energy set out in President Biden's $3.5 trillion budget bill. Proposed measures include a 10-year extension to the ITC, new tax credits to upgrade power grids, and fiscal measures that incentivise suppliers to switch to renewable energy. The framework bill was approved by both Houses last month and lawmakers are now nailing down the full details.

US solar installs must quadruple by mid-2020s to meet Biden goals

US solar installations must quadruple to around 60 GW/year by the middle of the decade and 70 GW/year in 2031-2035 to meet President Biden's carbon reduction targets, the US Department of Energy (DOE) said in a report published September 8.

Biden aims to decarbonise the power sector by 2035, requiring a rapid acceleration of solar and wind deployment.

The DOE modelled the solar, wind and storage capacity required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 95% by 2035. The study included the large-scale electrification of end-user sectors.

US wind installations could dip in the coming years but would need to rise to 17 GW/year in 2026-2030 and 50 GW/year in 2031-2035, the DOE said.

               US annual deployment rates - decarbonisation scenario

                                                              (Click image to enlarge)

Source: Department of Energy's Solar Futures Study, September 2021.

By 2035, solar could provide 37%-42% of electricity demand while wind could supply 36%, nuclear 11%-13%, hydroelectric 5%-6% and biopower/geothermal 1%, the DOE said.

New Illinois law sets up solar construction wave

The US state of Illinois has implemented new laws to achieve 40% renewable energy by 2030 and 50% by 2040, setting up a surge in installations in the coming years.

Agreed by Illinois lawmakers and signed by Governor JB Pritzker September 15, the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act requires coal generators to reduce emissions and directs the Illinois Power Agency to procure millions of renewable energy credits that support new projects.

The 40% renewable energy goal will spur the construction of 4 GW of utility-scale solar and 5.8 GW of rooftop and community projects, as well as 4 GW of wind, the US Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), said.

Illinois currently has just 685 MW of installed solar capacity, half of which was installed in 2020.

Dominion Energy to build 12 utility-scale solar plants in Virginia

Dominion Energy has unveiled plans for 12 utility-scale solar projects in Virginia, including one project coupled with storage, as part of 1 GW of new renewable energy procurements.

The largest proposed project is the 150 MW Walnut solar farm located east of Richmond, acquired from a joint venture by Open Road Renewables and Eolian. The proposed 100 MW Dulles solar and storage project would be located in Loudoun County in northern Virginia.

If approved, the projects will be completed in 2023 and will help Dominion Energy Virginia meet its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) obligations of 100% electricity from clean energy by 2045, the company said.

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