Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wal-Mart Makes Big Renewable Push with Utilities

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the company that coined the phrase "rollback pricing," is busy rolling back state and utility resistance to corporate purchases of renewable energy.

The Arkansas-based firm, perennially ranked atop the Fortune 500 index with stores in all 50 states, will soon break ground on its 300th solar power site, expanding its photovoltaic (PV) output to 100 megawatts across 14 states and Puerto Rico.

"What we have found over time is that once we're successful with on-site solar at one location or state, opportunities begin to open up in other states," David Ozment, Wal-Mart's senior director for energy, told participants of a webinar sponsored by the nonprofit Advanced Energy Economy Thursday.  "We literally work across the United States to try to make solar work in that particular capacity."

Increasingly, states are getting the message.

Georgia, for example, this spring became the latest state to allow independent firms to build and lease solar systems in the state, effectively dismantling Georgia's long-standing model under which regulated utilities had sole authority to generate and distribute electricity.  The Georgia solar law is primarily aimed at helping homeowners and small businesses finance rooftop PV systems, but it could also encourage larger-scale distributed generation, including corporate PPAs like the ones Wal-Mart prefers.

"When we talk about distributed generation and the role it's beginning to play in our energy world ... it's no longer really just the utility providing all of the transmission and distribution anymore," Ozment said.  "The distributed generation pony has sort of left the barn, and we're not going to put it back in."

Yet, even with the emergence of new solar markets like Georgia, renewable energy advocates say barriers still remain to open and competitive markets, with utilities and public service commissions in many states continuing to hold onto traditional models of power generation, transmission and distribution.

Read more at Wal-Mart Makes Big Renewable Push with Utilities

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