Solar Energy Outlook for 2017


A new year promises new advances in solar technology and policy. We have made numerous strides in the solar industry in 2016, and predict there will be many more to come in the year ahead. Here is our list of what to expect in the solar market in 2017.

Uncertainty in federal regulations

With President-elect Donald Trump entering office next month, we are optimistic, yet it remains unclear what the federal regulations will look like for solar energy in 2017. All signs indicate he is very interested in restoring the coal industry, yet his position on renewables has yet to be addressed. From this, it seems the President-elect may seek a leveled playing field for solar and all other sources of energy in terms of subsidies. The coming months should illuminate this more.

Importance of state legislature

With the level of uncertainty regarding federal regulations for solar power, there is an increased emphasis regarding the importance of solar incentives at the state legislatures. The policies put in place by state administrations and legislatures make solar increasingly appealing in many states, and will likely increase individuals’ and businesses’ interests in pursuing solar energy into 2017.

Alternatives to net metering

Like some states in New England and beyond have already done—or plan to do—we predict a trend of state legislatures evaluating alternatives to net metering. Despite incentives increasing demand for solar energy systems, it is common to see a halt in solar energy development when the net metering cap is achieved. Circling back to the President-elect pursuing “a level playing field” in the energy sector, it is quite possible that states themselves look toward incentives that are tariff or market-based.

New tariff program in MA

Recently, Massachusetts proposed a new solar incentive program that utilizes a tariff structure. The tariff program will include a 15-20 year fixed rate that applies to all electric distribution companies, across Massachusetts. These tariff payments are for Class I RECs, and the anticipated incentive payments would equal the net energy value. The program is being touted as ensuring more predictability in the incentive level, and greater cost certainty to ratepayers. We believe there could be a number of states migrating toward a similar model in 2017.

Upgrades to the grid

Solar energy has become increasingly popular and continues to see rapid growth. Nevertheless, the grid may be challenged to handle the increasing load from alternative energy sources.  Many states are considering the impact of reaching grid capacity as they continue to produce more solar energy. To accommodate the Solar production into 2017, solutions to handle the increasing capacity will need to be considered, including energy storage and community solar initiatives.

Continued decrease in panel prices as market matures

In recent years, solar energy has become more cost competitive, in some cases making it an equal or cheaper alternative to traditional fossil fuels . According to a report released in late September, the price of solar panels is projected to reach  35 cents per watt by 2017—a 25% to 38% drop from just two years ago in 2015. With the cost of Solar installations decreasing, it is fair to assume that the pace of Solar installations will continue to increase. We are confident that 2017 will be another growth year for solar energy in New England, as well as the rest of the country. While a new administration introduces some uncertainty, as long as state legislators continue to work on solar policies, we believe there will be continued expansion in the solar energy sector in 2017.