Corporate procurement of utility-scale solar PV is on the rise, but there’s opportunity for corporations to leverage recent market developments and deploy even more.
While the majority of corporate utility-scale power procurement in the U.S. to date has been of wind power, solar PV is also starting to gain ground.
A new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) said that innovation is enabling more corporate solar procurement, with new purchasing models, declining costs, and increased interest by corporate purchasers driving this segment.
NREL said that as of July, corporate customers have contracted for more than 2,300 MW of utility-scale solar PV. In addition, corporate procurement of utility-scale solar PV grew from about 1 percent of annual installed utility scale capacity in 2014 to 9 percent in 2016, and it accounted for 17 percent so far this year.
Figure 1: Corporate off-site solar contracts
Source: Charting the Emergence of Corporate Procurement of Utility-Scale PV, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
So, which pathway offers corporations the best opportunity to leverage recent market developments and deploy even more solar?
The answer, NREL said, depends on the level of value a corporation seeks. Corporations interested in the best value proposition for a given location might be best served by obtaining regulatory approval to sell electricity into the wholesale markets. Other options, such as retail choice and green tariffs, likely will have shorter terms, while rates may be influenced by suppliers and utility participation.
According to the report, it is not likely that many new licenses will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by corporations seeking to become a licensed wholesale electricity provider in the near-term because most corporate customers are not interested in being involved in the energy business.
The report also noted that, for corporations looking to reduce the administrative factors for solar procurement, utility green tariff programs and retail choice are good options because they require little in-house capacity or market expertise.
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