US delays import tariff verdict; Solar developers to dominate battery installs

Our pick of the latest solar news you need to know.

US trade department delays decision on new solar import tariffs

The U.S. Department of Commerce requested more information from a group of domestic solar manufacturers on September 29 before it decides on the group's request to impose duties on solar panel imports from three key Southeast Asian countries.

In August, a group of anonymous US solar manufacturers requested the Commerce Department impose duties on solar panels and cells imported from Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, claiming unfair competition.

The US has imposed import duties on solar panels from China since 2018 and the manufacturers said Chinese producers have shifted manufacturing to other low-cost countries in Southeast Asia. The Biden administration must also decide whether to extend the duties on Chinese imports in the coming months.

Imports represented 89% of US solar module shipments in 2020, data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows. Vietnam was the leading exporter to the US, followed by Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand.

 Average value of US solar module shipments

                                   (Click image to enlarge)

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

The US Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) called on the Commerce Department to reject the request. SEIA argues that higher import costs would slice the margins of developers and slow the deployment of solar power.

"The massive duties called for in these petitions, ranging from 50% to as high as 250%, are already having an adverse impact on the US solar industry and, if implemented, would devastate the industry and each of our individual companies," SEIA said.

US solar builders to install 9 GW of storage through 2024: EIA

US solar plant developers are forecast to install 9.4 GW of battery storage in 2021-2024, representing 63% of total storage installations, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a research note September 29.

Some 4.0 GW of new stand-alone battery storage is expected online through 2024 while wind and gas-fired developers are predicted to install 1.3 GW of storage, EIA said, based on data reported by developers.

As solar capacity grows, many developers are including energy storage to access higher prices during evening peak demand.

The surge of solar-storage projects will transform the US storage fleet. The US had 1.5 GW of battery capacity online at the end of 2020 and 71% was stand-alone.

                                     US forecast battery installs by type

                                                                  (Click image to enlarge)

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), October 2021

Most of the stand-alone storage has been deployed in markets with supportive market frameworks set by regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and independent system operators (ISOs). In markets outside of RTO and ISO regions, 90% of new storage capacity will be co-located with solar, EIA said.

New York advances power line projects in renewables drive

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has backed two giant power transmission and renewable energy projects and expanded the state target for distributed solar power to 10 GW by 2030.

New York is on track to achieve its target of 6 GW of distributed solar power by 2025 and the new 10 GW target should see the state "exceed" its goal to supply 70% of power from renewable sources by 2030, the Governor's office said.

"New York State must be more aggressive in setting the bar higher in recognition of the reality of climate change and the closing window of time to stop the worst impacts," Governor Hochul said.

The $11 billion Clean Path NY (CPNY) project - developed by Invenergy, EnergyRe and the New York Power Authority - consists of 1.4 GW of new solar capacity, 2 GW of wind and a new 1.3 GW transmission line from upstate New York into New York City (NYC). The $3 billion Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE), developed by Blackstone-backed Transmission Developers and Hydro-Quebec, would transport 1.3 GW of hydroelectric power 338 miles from Canada into NYC.

The projects will receive payments under New York's Tier 4 renewable energy support scheme following a tender held by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in January. Construction on CHPE is due to begin in 2025 followed by CPYN in 2027, pending permit approvals and sign off by the New York Public Service Commission.

"This is a transformative moment for New York City's fight against climate change," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"Two new transmission lines connecting New York City to electricity from water, wind, and solar will create thousands of good union jobs, improve the resilience and reliability of our power supply, and dramatically reduce our reliance on oil and gas electricity," the Mayor said.

UK energy groups take on over 1.6 million customers from failing suppliers

UK energy regulator Ofgem ordered EDF, British Gas, Octopus Energy, Shell and E.ON to take on more than 1.6 million household customers after their suppliers ceased trading due to soaring gas and electricity prices.

UK domestic energy tariffs are capped by Ofgem and rising wholesale gas and electricity prices left some UK suppliers unable to cover their costs. Under Supplier of Last Resort (SoLR) rules, Ofgem re-allocates the customers of failed suppliers under a competitive process.

On September 17, Ofgem ordered EDF to take on 220,000 household customers from People's Energy and on September 20 the regulator appointed British Gas to take on 350,000 customers from People's Energy. A week later, Ofgem ordered Octopus Energy to take on 580,000 customers from Avro Energy and selected Shell Energy to take on 255,000 customers from Green Supplier Limited. On October 4, Ofgem appointed E.ON to take on 233,000 customers from ENSTROGA, Igloo Energy and Symbio Energy.

Despite appeals from suppliers, the UK government stepped back from issuing loans to energy companies that acquire customers from failed competitors. The number of UK energy suppliers has halved in the last two years to around 30 companies.

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.

European power exchange starts trading 10 years ahead

The European Energy Exchange (EEX) has expanded its power futures contracts in Germany, Italy and Spain to 10 years ahead to accommodate more renewable energy trading in the wholesale power market, Reuters reported September 27.

Until now, EEX participants could trade up to six years ahead, but demand for longer contracts is growing as solar and wind developers look to mitigate financial risks with long-term power agreements.

Falling solar and wind costs have prompted governments to scale back subsidy programs, requiring developers to secure long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with consumers or take on wholesale market risk. Longer futures contracts will provide investors with more clarity over long term prices and improve their ability to hedge output.

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