Numbers outline PURPA’s capacity, renewable impact

Published on August 17, 2018 by Douglas Clark

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Energy Information Administration (EIA) numbers reflect Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) qualifying capacity is increasing but remains a small portion of renewables.

EIA officials said between 2008 and 2017, more than 103 gigawatts (GW) of renewable generating capacity entered service in the United States, of which only 14 GW is certified to have qualifying facility small power producer status under PURPA.

Officials said, over the last 10 years, PURPA-qualifying facilities have accounted for 31 percent of solar PV capacity, 5 percent of onshore wind capacity, and 6 percent of total electric generating capacity across all technologies in America.

PURPA requires utilities to purchase power generated by qualifying facilities at the rate of the utility’s avoided cost, which is the cost a utility would incur if it chose to either provide the energy itself by building new capacity or the cost incurred by purchasing electricity from non-qualifying facilities.

The requirement for utilities to purchase electricity from qualified facilities with nondiscriminatory access to competitive electricity markets was removed via the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which officials said lessened the impact of PURPA in states participating in regional transmission organizations.

With the exceptions of Idaho, Utah, and North Carolina, qualifying capacity additions still represent small portions of an individual state’s total generating capacity added in the past decade.