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EIA: Solar Surge Continues

William Opalka

EIAMayThe US solar industry at utility scale projects is expected to account of one-half of one percent of total electricity supply in 2015. And customer-sited generation growth is expected to surpass utility scale output during the same time period, the US Energy Information Administration said.

Its May 2014 Short-Term Energy Outlook, released this week, says the growth in solar over the past four years will continue. EIA said it currently expects utility-scale solar capacity will increase by over 50 percent between 2013 and 2015.

Growth in customer-sited solar capacity is expected to exceed utility-scale solar growth over this same period. Customer-sited units provide most of the nation’s solar power, according to the Outlook.

While EIA expects natural gas storage to accelerate over the warmer months, storage rates will have to increase dramatically to fill the record amount of capacity.

The natural gas injection season started slowly, so the amount of gas in underground storage remains well below year-ago and five year-year average levels, it says.  EIA expects strong injections over the summer and fall, with projected storage levels at close to 3.4 trillion cubic feet by the end of October.  But to reach the expected record build in US natural gas storage during the current refill season, weekly natural gas injections have to average about 90 billion cubic feet, which is 30 percent more than the five-year average injection rate.

In electricity markets, customers in the Northeast experienced large increases in retail electricity prices. EIA estimates the average price of electricity sold to residential consumers in the Mid-Atlantic states grew by 8 percent in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the same time last year. New England electricity prices grew by 11 percent. Rising fuel prices in that region have driven up utilities’ generation costs and the costs of purchasing electricity on wholesale power markets.



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