Big-Box Retailers Turn To Solar, How Can Electric Utilities Adapt?

Source: Costco

The electric utility industry faces the risk of declining revenues as more customers install solar panels on their homes and businesses.  Solar power currently supplies 2% of the country’s electricity needs, and is projected to grow to 16% by 2020. In 2013, solar panel prices for commercial installations fell 15.6%, from $4.64/watt to $3.92/watt.  To protect their revenues, some utilities are raising electricity costs for solar panel owners – but with mixed results.  Credit ratings agencies are also expressing concern.  Is there real cause for alarm or are these companies crying wolf?  Judging by one customer segment – big-box retailers – the threat is real.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranks U.S. companies based on their solar energy capacity, and the top five companies on the list are big-box retailers:

  • Walmart tops SEIA’s list with 65,000 kW of solar power, which is enough to supply the annual energy needs of over 10,000 homes.  They recently installed ten new solar rooftop systems in Maryland, totaling more than 13,000 panels.  Walmart is the largest retailer in the U.S. and in the world by revenue, with 4,423 U.S. stores and over 10,000 stores worldwide. Walmart and EDF have been working together since 2004 to reduce the Walmart’s environmental footprint.  With more than 200 solar installations across the country, Walmart plans to have 1,000 solar installations by 2020.  Walmart’s goal is to eventually supply 100% of its energy needs with renewable energy.
  • Costco ranks second on the list with 38,900 kW of solar power.  Costco is the fifth largest U.S. retailer and seventh largest in the world, with 425 stores in the U.S.  Costco has installed solar panels in approximately 60 stores, with an average size of 500 kW per store.  Solar power supplies about 22% of each store’s energy needs.
  • In third place on SEIA’s list is Kohl’s, with 36,474 kW of solar power.  Kohl’s is the 20th largest retailer in the U.S. and the 44th largest retailer in the world, with 1,127 U.S. stores.  Kohl’s has solar panels installed at 139 of its stores, and will have solar panels at 200 stores by 2015.
  • IKEA is fourth with 21,495 kW of solar power.  IKEA only has 38 U.S. stores, but its buildings can accommodate larger solar installations.  By 2020, the company plans to meet 100% of its energy needs with renewable energy.
  • Macy’s ranks fifth on SEIA’s list with 16,163 kW of solar power.  Macy’s is the 16th largest retailer in the U.S. and the 36th largest retailer in the world, with 840 stores.  The company is increasing its solar installations by 25-35%.

The SEIA top 20 list also includes:

  • Staples, #8 / 10,776 kW of solar power / 1,583 U.S. stores;
  • Walgreens, #10 / 8,163 kW of solar power / 7,651 U.S. stores;
  • Bed, Bath and Beyond, #11 / 7,543 kW of solar power / 1,143 U.S. stores; and
  • Toys “R” Us, #12 / 5.676 kW of solar power / 871 U.S. stores.

As a whole, the top 20 big-box retailers have over 18,000 U.S. stores, representing enormous potential for solar power growth.  These retailers are only part of a larger group of commercial customers, which in total make up about one- third of U.S. electric utility sales.  But other commercial customers are turning to solar too.  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory reports that 40% of the nation’s 86,000 supermarkets are located in areas with grid parity (the cost of power from solar panels is equal to the cost of buying power from the utility).  Commercial customers are also making impressive strides in reducing their energy usage through energy efficiency.

What does this mean for electric utilities?  We can expect to see the following changes to the electric utility business model going forward:

  • Utilities will need to address the operational challenges of higher levels of solar power on their electric grids;
  • Utilities will seek to limit the number of customers eligible for net metering plans, where the customer is paid for the excess energy supplied by their solar panels;
  • Utilities will seek to reduce payments received for solar energy produced by net metering customers, who currently receive the full retail rate for their excess energy in many  states;
  • Utilities will seek to implement new, fixed charges for customers who install solar panels on their property;
  • Utilities will start new businesses providing solar installation services for customers;
  • Utilities will seek approval to own solar power installations located on their customer properties; and
  • Regulators and utilities will consider adopting performance-based electricity rate plans. These plans would charge for electricity on the basis of service and performance, rather than the volume of energy sold to customers.

Source: Costco

These changes present a host of legal and regulatory challenges.  As a guiding principle, utilities must have an opportunity to earn a fair return in exchange for keeping the lights on.  Similarly, electricity rates for solar panel owners should fairly reflect the full costs of serving these customers, as well as the full benefits that solar power provides to the electric utility.  These changes will be disruptive for electric utilities, but will allow customers to choose affordable clean energy and new technologies.  We’ll all benefit from cleaner energy and a reliable electric grid.

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One Comment

  1. Paul Felix Schott
    Posted August 23, 2013 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    JUST slightly radioactive water. HAVE NO FEAR THE POLITICIANS LIVE NO WEAR NEAR NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS. YET IT IS YOUR TAXES used for their insurance no one else will insure it or any other Nuclear Power Plant on Earth.
    "Buy a Electric Vehicle (EV) or Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) Recharge Them Free From The SUN"
    Doctors now going to SOLAR ENERGY were the MONEY IS as always.
    More Money in solar energy then the Sick and Poor.

    Doctors have now formed CAUSE (Californians Against Utilities Stopping solar Energy) , what took them so long to come on board GOD Bless them for doing so..
    Solar Industry to Skyrocket with the help of Solar Shingles.
    SOLAR ENERGY SOON WILL POWER ALL OF THE EARTH

    ELECTRIC HYBRID VEHICLES & ELECTRIC VEHICLES SOON TO OUT SELL ALL OTHERS

    Energy has driven the world for over a thousand years Wind, Hydro and Solar are the oldest forms of energy giving power to all smart enough to use it.

    In the last 200 years Coal, Oil and Nuclear has given energy to many worldwide and great power and wealth to only a few. At the cost of many lives in coal Mines, Oil Spills, Radiation, Cancer and Polluting the Air and Water on all of the Earth.

    Unfortunately for the wicked there is not an unlimited amount of oil on earth. Just the same as the Forest Trees that clean the air and make Oxygen we breath and all living on earth need to Live. As some in denial are not able to recognize or ever see or live with blinders on.

    Doctors now going to SOLAR ENERGY were the MONEY IS as always.
    Doctors and Drug ceo's have been making millions prescribing drugs to many that live near or by High polluted areas. From dirty energy that hurt breathing our lungs, water we drink and harm our children and all. That we all pay for. When all on earth need is Clean Air and Water, and Clean Cities.

    Now common sense would be for all to look for a Clean Fuel Source like Wind, Hydro, Geothermal and Solar. Renewable Energy is eliminating the need for Dirty Energy Worldwide at a record pace. With SOLAR ENERGY Clearly the front runner.

    To the fear of some of the richest people on Earth. They to surprisingly are doing
    something extraordinary investing in Solar Energy. After years of many of them trying to under mine it.

    Fuel that makes energy to ship goods, or make electric for homes and manufacturing. Can transform whole nations into prosperity and wealth or poverty and economic hardships for most all. Just as taxes on taxpayers has done. For over two thousand years. Making slaves of many to the wicked and unjust few. History Lesson Roman Empire, Persian Empire now OIL Empire oh sorry OPEC.

    The Freedom to get your own Power from the Wind and Sun, Solar Energy has been there for years. Are Libraries and Schools should have been the first to have gone Solar and Renewable Energy. And why are they not? Churches are all over the Planet. They are going to Solar Energy.

    Thank GOD for the Pioneers like John Schaeffer that Started Real Goods The first and Best catalog for Renewable Energy and Dr. Addison Bain one of NASA top Scientist and Scientist Bill Young at the FSEC Florida Solar Energy Center and Monica D. Key Lindbergh for many years wrote to legislators promoting Solar and Renewable Energy and many others.

    These Pioneers helped put Wind, Solar And Renewable Energy in the Spotlight for all the World to see.

    Very soon Hybrid Vehicles and (EV's) Electric Vehicles will out number the ones that need oil and gas to go. With the ability to recharge them at home and work from the sun.

    Tesla Motors with its new Model S electric sedan, is one of many the World will see. Honda, Nissan, Audi,VW, BMW and Volvo are just some of the Car Companies putting into production Electric Vehicles a (EV), and many more are and many are building Electric / Hybrid Vehicles. The DeLorean Motor Company has put into production a DMC-EV Electric DeLorean, that will have a body and power plant that will last you a life time. The DeLorean Motor Company will customize it to your wish. Just think you can recharge them at home and work free from the sun Solar Energy.

    Now to own a car that will never rust way and runs on the power from the sun that's the one for me. Very soon most all on earth will be able to get energy by recharging from the sun and wind.

    Cities that want to be Clean clean-cities.org many of them are putting in recharging stations in their heart of their downtown of their city all over the Planet Earth. Many Thanks mostly to Scientist Bill Young and his team at FSEC for their many years of work at this..
    UK has 4,000 + Public- Access Charging points and adding more then one a week for Electric- Vehicles EVs.
    GOD Bless You Professor Takashi Ohira and your team for the good work they are doing. To promote Clean Cities with Clean Transportation that will let some drive all day without having to stop to recharge. As Neil Armstrong would say one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Just one step closer to the World being powered be the Sun Solar Energy.

    GOING SOLAR
    Germany, Denmark, Australia, Sweden, Norway, India, Nepal, Tibet, and Israeli clearly a leader in Solar companies and Renewable Energy is helping many World Wide and a long list of Nations Going Solar. Even Iran with its Archimedes Tower. At its Shiraz Solar Power Plant Iran and all the Oil Nations on Earth know the World is going to SOLAR Energy.

    Solar Powered Desalination Plants are being built around the world by many countries.
    SAFE DRINKING WATER IS RUNNING OUT.

    GOING GEOTHERMAL

    Iceland, Philippines, Kenya…..and more then 50 other Countries.

    WIND ENERGY in use

    More then 75 Countries

    ALBERT EINSTEIN'S DREAM COMING TRUE
    The Earth Powered By SOLAR ENERGY.

    GOD Bless
    all that Spot Light and use Solar Energy

    There is enough Energy from our Sun to Power all are needs on Earth and more.

    Solar Energy
    The Fastest growing energy on Earth.

    Albert Einstein 100 years ago showed the World it could get
    Free Energy, Electric from the SUN. (THE PHOTOVOLTAIC EFFECT).

    The Freedom to get your own Power from the Wind and Sun, Solar Energy has been there for years. Are Libraries and Schools should have been the first to have gone Solar and Renewable Energy. And why are they not? Churches are all over the Planet. They are going to Solar Energy.

    One of The Greatest Scientists ever Albert Einstein Stared it with a Dream that the day would come that all the World would use Solar Energy. His many years of work with the law of the "Photoelectric Effect", and showing this to the World won him the Nobel Prize in Physics. For the "Photoelectric Effect"
    Free Energy From the SUN in the heavens above.
    We still do not teach this to our young why.
    Why Teachers and Leaders do you not know how to lead? In this Land of the United We Stand In Our GOD and Lord Jesus Christ We Trust. To Lead and Help Others to the best of our ability. Not do what some slow in the head or wicked tell us to do.

    The Lord's Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott

    Photos of

    Scientist Dr. Addison Bain and Monica D. Key Lindbergh and Hydrogen Powered Car that Dr. Bain modified
    for NASA to run on Natural Gas / Hydrogen Monica gives it a perflight check once over before getting
    in the China EV Electric Vehicle.

  • About the author

    Senior Regulatory Attorney
    John Finnigan is the senior regulatory attorney for EDF’s US Climate and Energy Program, representing EDF before state public utility commissions on smart grid deployments and energy efficiency matters.

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