Last week I spent a few (hot!) days in Philadelphia for the inaugural RE+ Mid-Atlantic conference and exhibition. I was told by SEIA that attendance was 150% more than they had anticipated for this conference, so you can bet we'll see this event on the 2024 calendar. The RE+ regional shows have been a big success, so this great attendance didn't surprise me. I was, however, taken aback by the optimism from a region that is enduring some adversities — maybe this attitude reflects the perseverance from a callused but resilient industry well accustomed to uncertainty and setbacks.
Timed perfectly in the agenda, the first two sessions of RE+ Mid-Atlantic were focused on the struggles of interconnection and transmission. PJM Interconnection has arguably the longest queues and has been giving developers, and their projects, pause for the last 17 months as it evaluates its approval process. This affects over 1,200 projects, and, of course, these are mostly solar projects. Yet, Berkeley Labs reported that PJM Interconnection costs doubled from 2020 to 2022, which means that we must factor increased costs onto an extended timeline. I can tell you that these new conditions do not make developers happy and that we're already seeing a slow-down in hiring among our developer customers focused on certain ISOs. And guess what happens when developers' projects are delayed? Yup, you guessed it! Construction is delayed; so we're also seeing some hiring delays with our EPC customers in what should be the busiest season for construction. While PJM Interconnection made the Forbes list for Best Small Employers in 2023, I don't think developers plan to award PJM the best Regional Transmission Organization!
New Jersey has one of the biggest pro-clean energy governors. Governor Murphy is making New Jersey the largest producer of offshore wind in the nation as he aims to achieve a 100% renewable energy goal by 2050. His goal of 11GW of offshore wind by 2040 is actually becoming a reality! The Governor recently signed legislation to promote tax benefits for developers and create new jobs. Ocean Wind 1 will soon (already approved by BOEM) be the second utility-scale offshore wind project in the United States; the 98 turbine, 1,100MW project will operate 15 miles off the Jersey coastline and bring back electricity for 500,000 homeowners. New Jersey will also be the east coast manufacturing hub for offshore wind turbine foundations (aka monopile) in Paulsboro.
So, why can't New Jersey get out of its own way when it comes to solar? NJ was once a leader in solar under the initial SREC program, but recently, they are losing State rankings. Their lackluster community solar program is extremely limited and now their utility-scale RFP program of 300MW has been rejected by the BPU. The winners from the spring bid now have to re‑bid in the fall in hopes to be more price competitive. Unfortunately, I have multiple New Jersey customers losing money on this hiccup and pulling back on hiring because of it.
The Mid-Atlantic solar powerhouse, Virginia, has overtaken New Jersey in recent years in solar installations. Last year, Virginia ranked fifth in the country in installed capacity, and is tracking to reach their 100% RPS goal through the Virginia Clean Economy Act which encompasses solar, onshore and offshore wind, and energy storage. Virginia has a strong 25% solar state tax credit, net metering for over production, community solar programs, and SREC programs which allows solar power generators to earn credits for every megawatt of electricity produced. There's no slowing down Virginia as the Mid-Atlantic leader in solar!
Is Maryland the Mid-Atlantic bright spot? A slow-solar-starter, Maryland has quadrupled it's solar capacity in four years, doubled it's RPS to 50%, passed an energy storage target of 3GW in ten years, introduced a residential solar grant, and most recently, launched a community solar program. Maryland is currently ranked 19th in the nation in solar capacity, but look out for them moving up the charts quickly.
Renewables UnWind, Philadelphia
In our first Renewables UnWind in the Mid-Atlantic region since 2019, EnergeiaWorks hosted a packed crowd at the Love City Brewing garden. From start to finish, plus a little after-hours, attendees gathered around fresh brew, cocktails, and bites to discuss renewable energy progress and policy in the Mid-Atlantic region. Special thanks to our sponsors BOW Renewables, CPS America, SunCast Media, Unirac, PowerHub, and WRISE for making a magnificent evening! We're looking forward to being back in Philadelphia real soon!
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