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IEA: Global Solar PV Capacity Surpassed 227GW in 2015

Last year was a record year for global PV installations, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest Trends in Photovoltaic Applications report, released last week. Worldwide installed capacity amounted to 51 gigawatts in 2015, up from around 40 gigawatts in the two preceding years.

After 20 years of PV development, the report finds there are now at least 227 gigawatts of PV installed around the world, making up more than 1.2 percent of global electricity demand. The latest GTM Research Global Solar Demand Monitor also puts the total at 228 gigawatts, down from a previous projection of more than 250 gigawatts.

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Why 'a lot has become the new normal' in state solar policy debates

The skyrocketing growth of distributed solar is keeping policymakers as busy as utilities and rooftop installers. There were over 100 separate solar policy actions debated by state regulators and legislators across the U.S. in the third quarter of 2016, according to a new report from the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (CETC). That’s up significantly from just last year, according to Autumn Proudlove, senior policy analyst at the CETC and author of the “50 States of Solar” report. “When we first started tracking solar policy actions in Q1 2015, we had 70 policy actions, but in Q3 2016 there were 117 policy actions,” she said. “That is a lot of policy debates but a lot has become the new normal.”

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Regulators overhaul wind, solar power rules for federal land

Federal regulators made final a rule Thursday overhauling how wind and solar power companies lease public land. The rule from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) creates a competitive bidding process for the first time for renewable energy on federal land for oil, gas and coal companies use.

It also gives incentives for companies to put their wind turbines or solar panels in areas that do not conflict with wildlife, among other changes. The rule is the first significant overhaul of wind and solar standards for federal land. Renewable energy was practically non-existent on federal land before 2009. The Obama administration sees the Thursday rule as a way to continue the industry’s growth.

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Microsoft commits to running data centers off 50% renewable energy by 2018

Microsoft announced it plans to power its data centers around the world using 50% renewable energy by 2018. The company also plans to boost its use of renewable power for its data centers to 60% by the early 2020s. Rob Bernard, Microsoft's chief environmental & cities strategist, made the announcement at the VERGE16 conference last week. Bernard's comments during a conference keynote were a reiteration of a commitment earlier this year by the company to increase its use of clean energy. Microsoft's latest announcement came on the same day that Apple committed to 100% renewable energy use by joining RE100, a global initiative by influential businesses. To date, RE100 has amassed membership from 77 corporations, including Microsoft.

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Obama's clean energy plan goes to court

A federal appeals court will hear what one participating lawyer calls an environmental "case for the ages" on Tuesday. At issue: the centerpiece of President Obama's climate change plan. The administration's effort to regulate the electricity sector and burn less fossil fuel is the Clean Power Plan. The coal industry and more than two dozen states are challenging the rule, which gives every state an emissions target. The overall goal is to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by one third by 2030. A central legal question: does the EPA have authority to regulate beyond physical power plants, and "green" up the broader power grid? It's a rather untested question.

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Clean Energy Gets A Boost With California Regulations

The California ISO (CAISO) was recently approved by the Federal Energy Regulation Commission to introduce new regulations to boost accuracy in determining market demand. These revisions will be affecting non-generator resources or distributed energy resources (DERs), basically locally generated power via wind turbines and solar panels. This represents a small portion of the California power but means the grid is taking steps to become more efficient.

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Complaint filed over Montana suspension of solar payments

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is being asked to step in after Montana officials suspended payment for solar projects until a rate structure can be determined. The Montana Environmental Information Center and Vote Solar filed a complaint after the Public Service Commission decided to review standard rates for small solar energy developers in Montana. Supporters say the commission violated federal regulations that encourage renewable energy production and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. "That rate has now been taken off the table when projects were in their late stages," said Brian Fadie, clean energy program director for the Montana Environmental Information Center. "It undercuts solar development in Montana at the moment." He said three developers had 43 projects each moving forward with power purchase agreements at 3 megawatts, which would have meant a lot more electric power in Montana.

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Minnesota and Xcel Energy announces partnership bringing renewable energy to state capitol

Lt. Governor Tina Smith and the Minnesota Department of Administration has announced a new partnership with Xcel Energy called the Renewable*Connect Government Pilot Program. The new initiative will ensure that 33% of the base energy used at the State Capitol Complex comes from renewable sources. If approved by the Public Utilities Commission, the program will provide a reliable and stable supply of solar and wind energy on a long-term basis, and serve as a template for other government customers to purchase utility scale renewable energy packages.

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Backing Clean Power Plan Will Accelerate The Clean Energy Future

While legal experts are debating EPA’s Clean Power Plan in Washington next Tuesday, the U.S. business community is galloping ahead on the clean energy future. From General Motors to Bank of America to Apple, dozens of iconic companies are now fully committed to running their companies with 100 percent renewable energy. The writing is on the wall: clean energy has arrived and fossil fuel power generation is fading. And a favorable Clean Power Plan ruling will hasten this transition, benefiting both our global climate, which is over-heating due to carbon pollution, and businesses that want policy certainty in dealing with this threat. By enacting this rule, all 50 states will be on the path to lowering the carbon footprint of their electric power plants.

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World Energy Council report: Renewables now account for over 30% of total global installed power generation capacity

According to a new report published by the World Energy Council in partnership with CESI S.p.A., renewables, including hydro, now account for over 30% of the total global installed power generation capacity and 23% of total global electricity production. In the past 10 years, wind and solar photovoltaics (PV) have witnessed an explosive average annual growth of 23% and 50% respectively, although their combined contribution to the global electricity supply is currently only 4%, according to “Variable Renewables Integration in Electricity Systems 2016 – How to get it right”. The Report draws upon 32 country case studies, representing about 90% of installed wind and solar PV capacity worldwide. Renewables have become big business: in 2015 a record USD 286 billion was invested in 154 GW of new renewables capacity (76% in wind and PV), by far overtaking the investment in conventional generation to which 97 GW were added.

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