Grid Reliability, Market Growth and Solar+ in the Lone Star State
Wednesday, Jul 03 2019
Just weeks after SEIA announced that Texas jumped to the #6 spot in state solar production rankings, more than 500 energy professionals gathered in Austin for the annual Solar Power Texas event last week. It was a power-packed two days as regulators, utilities and executives from companies across the solar and energy storage supply chain convened to talk trends and themes on a wide range of topics critical to the Texas solar and storage market.
A resounding theme throughout the conference was the need for substantial policy and market advances for Texas to meet its promising market projections. Texas has one of the strongest growth forecasts for solar in the country, with nearly 8 gigawatts of solar expected to come online over the next 5 years.
The event kicked off with Bill Magness, CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), setting the stage. Magness outlined his big task of keeping the lights on across the state, even as record electricity demand strains power supplies and tests ERCOT’s grid each summer. He discussed just how important solar will be to meeting peak demand and maintaining a reliable grid.
Another highlight was a fireside chat that featured SEIA president & CEO Abigail Ross Hopper and Texas Public Utilities Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea. Their conversation focused on the massive growth of solar in Texas and how well solar pairs with other technologies like energy storage in the complex and interrelated world of markets, customers and electricity systems.
There were lively discussions about overcoming transmission-level interconnection challenges and the intersection between policy and business development at both the state and federal level. There were also important conversations about finding new ways to attract customers, better tell the solar story in the 2020s, and leverage the public’s overwhelming support for solar energy.
One session focused on how U.S. solar manufacturing is a vibrant part of the broader solar industry, employing over 35,000 individuals who make inverters, modules, racking and other components. SEIA recently formed a new membership division for manufacturing to increase collaboration and build a strong solar supply chain in the United States.
As SEIA embarks on the Solar+ Decade, the solar industry must work collaboratively and comprehensively with other technologies. Solar Power Texas was no exception, with conversations about electric vehicles, non-wires alternatives, energy storage and the many other forces shaping the future of energy in Texas. This included vigorous debate on how to boost storage adoption in Texas, whether transmission and distribution utilities should be allowed to own energy storage, and how distributed energy resources can be strategically deployed to help balance the grid and improve reliability.
If the enthusiasm displayed at Solar Power Texas was any indication, customer demand for solar and storage in the Lone Star State won’t be letting up any time soon.