Good Reasons to Cheer (Unless You Live in Nevada)

The move to solar as a solution for power production is becoming so obvious it is a wonder traditional utility stocks aren’t crashing and solar stocks aren’t moving ever higher.

Some facts worth thinking about as we look back on 2015:

• For the first time, carbon emissions globally fell, and just about every country in the world agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the global conference held in Paris in September.

• The U.S. Energy Department will spend $220 million on 88 grid modernization projects during the next few years. Projects include software modernization, new systems to integrate clean energy into the grid and ways to tie the three main grids in the country together for more efficiency.

• China, for the first time in at least 100 years, produced more power from alternative sources than coal in 2015. That is not entirely because of solar or wind or nuclear, but rather because the Chinese economy is under stress and the economy itself is moving more into service industries than heavy industrial output. China spent $110 billion last year on new, clean energy output — as much as was spent in the United States and Europe on clean energy last year. Estimates are that China’s total emissions will peak as early as 2020, more than a decade earlier than the target.

• The amount of solar photovoltaics installed around the world in 2015 was 59 gigawatts, an increase of about 35% compared with the total amount installed in 2014. That said, the amount expected to become viable in 2016 is another 64 gigawatts, or about a 10% increase. The total amount of photovoltaic output on the planet should exceed 320 gigawatts by year-end. In the United States, solar grew from 2 gigawatts installed in 2010 to at least 25 gigawatts in 2015.

• Estimates call for an annual increase in photovoltaic capacity in the United States of 10% a year from 2015–2020. But after Congress extended the federal Investment Tax Credit in late 2015, the estimates surged by 50%, to an annual average increase of 15% a year.

• Nevada, which is ideally suited for residential solar power, has shot itself in the energy foot. Two months ago, the state’s Public Utilities Commission slashed the benefits to homeowners who produce enough electricity from rooftop solar to sell it to the local utility. The commission not only established higher utility charges for those who install new solar installations, but also removed a grandfathering clause that would have allowed those who had already installed solar to retain their net metering deals with utilities. Solar installers, including Vivint, SolarCity and Sunrun, are abandoning the state.

Neighboring California, which has mandated that a third of all electricity produced in the state must come from renewable sources by 2020, recently went the opposite direction and allowed residential customers to sell excess electricity to their utilities at retail, not wholesale, prices. Only Nevada, of all 50 states, has decided not to grandfather in existing solar customers who were counting on the economics of the system they were sold to play out.

Only Nevada, of all 50 states, has decided not to grandfather in existing solar customers who were counting on the economics of the system they were sold to play out.

Vivint Solar’s CEO said the new restrictions in Nevada mean that a homeowner who installs solar there will never recover the investment. Sunrun and Vivint closed operations in Nevada and SolarCity announced it was cutting 550 Nevada jobs. Last year, Nevada had the second-highest growth rate of residential solar.

To your health and wealth,

Stephen Petranek
for, The Daily Reckoning