Washington D.C. is not meeting its solar carve-out


The District of Columbia is not meeting its requirement for electricity from solar and is not likely to meet it any time soon, according to a new analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Washington D.C. recently expanded its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 50% by 2032, as one of the most aggressive policies in the nation. This includes a requirement that solar technologies including solar PV and solar thermal provide energy equivalent to 5% of total electricity generation by 2032.

However, a 2011 law requires that all qualifying generators must be located either in the 61 square miles of the district, or on a distribution feeder which serves DC.

Even with this requirement, the majority of solar which qualified under the RPS has been located outside of the district in recent years. Combined with solar on DC rooftops, total solar generation/heat in 2015 was the equivalent of less than 40 terawatt-hours (TWh) – far short of the year’s mandate that utilities must procure nearly 80 TWh.

The 40 TWh gap meant that electricity service suppliers have had to pay fines, called alternative compliance payments (ACP), for not meeting the RPS targets.

GTM Research Associate Director of U.S. Solar Cory Honeyman told pv magazine that this failure to meet a solar carve-out is not typical. “In most other markets with solar carve-outs, these other states are facing an oversupply of solar renewable energy credits rather than undersupply, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland,” notes Honeyman.

Honeyman cites land and siting constraints as key hurdles to meeting RPS targets, but notes that under-supply will keep prices high. ACPs are currently set at $500 per megawatt-hour for electricity service providers, which means that any developers or homeowners who do build solar receive generous and stable prices for their solar renewable energy credits.


Correction: This article was corrected at 8:30 AM EST on August 31 to address several minor errors. We apologize for any confusion.

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