MDV-SEIA is proud to announce that WGL Energy will be sponsoring the Opening Dinner of this year’s Solar Focus Conference. WGL Energy’s consistent efficiency in the delivery of a wide spectrum of energy solutions makes them indispensable to us and to this year’s conference. WGL Energy is also the official greening partner of Solar Focus 2017 and you can thank them for a carbon-neutral event!
About WGL Energy
WGL Energy is a leader in efficient and environmentally-friendly energy technology solutions to residential, government, commercial and industrial customers.
Tell us a little bit about your company, including how many MWs/GWs of solar is in your East Coast portfolio.
Delivering a full spectrum of energy offerings, WGL Energy Services, Inc. and WGL Energy Systems, Inc. (WGL Holdings entities) provide natural gas, electricity, renewable energy, carbon reduction, distributed generation and energy efficiency solutions. WGL Energy Systems, Inc. has nearly 300 MW of solar under contract across 23 states and the District of Columbia. Some of our top states on the East Coast are New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, the District of Columbia and Georgia, and we’re excited to have recently added projects for the first time in Pennsylvania and Virginia. WGL Energy offers solar as part of our renewable energy solutions portfolio. We know firsthand that focusing on alternative energy is not just a benefit for the environment, but it also makes business sense. As the alternative energy market continues to grow and our customers are increasingly asking for solutions beyond traditional sources, WGL will continue to focus on providing clean, sustainable energy answers.
What opportunities and challenges do you see for solar on the East Coast?
Since the federal investment tax credit was extended, the focus of the industry has appropriately been on the state markets. This has resulted in several wins for the industry including an unfreezing of the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in Ohio, aggressive goals being set in New York, California and Hawaii, and a few new states that are becoming viable markets like Pennsylvania and Illinois. More recently, the recent Suniva trade case has resulted in an “all hands on deck” approach from the industry at the federal level to ensure there are no unfair tariffs on modules that would be damaging to the industry.
Once we have certainty at the federal level, we believe it is best to reengage certain state markets that have been successful in the past, but have slowed progress (like Maryland for example), and then continue to push burgeoning states like the aforementioned Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio towards adoption. As was the case at last year’s Solar Focus event, state incentives such as renewable portfolio standards are helpful, but ensuring utility cooperation on interconnection is becoming more important as capacity
increases. In addition, the growth of offsite solar should continue to trend upward with the high number of corporations that have committed to 100% renewable energy and aggressive sustainability and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals.
How does your company plan to be involved in influencing the solar industry over the next few years?
Beyond the growth in offsite renewable energy, WGL Energy continues to monitor the use of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for solar, and, of course, the integration of storage with solar. That’s not all. For the renewable energy industry to realize the full potential of the market, we feel strongly that the industry must offer flexible structures at the retail level and we are seeing momentum in this area. WGL Energy is in a unique position to offer customized renewable energy options from offsite projects, given our proven experience in not only retail supply but also owning and operating a vast portfolio of solar assets across the U.S.
The recent transaction with Monumental Sports & Entertainment (home of CapitalOne Arena for D.C.’s Wizards, Mystics, and other sports and entertainment) that was discussed at SEIA’s ‘Solar Goes Corporate’ event in New York City is a perfect demonstration of this type of solution. These are organizations that were forward thinkers interested in reaping the financial and sustainability benefits of solar, but did not have the infrastructure to do so on-site. As opportunities become available as a supplier, integrator and investor, WGL Energy will explore the viability of these projects and continue to play a role in this growth sector.
Solar jobs are now growing at a rate 17x faster than the overall economy and for the first time in history the solar industry employs more people than coal. Tell us a little about how the rate of solar job growth has impacted your business.
Interest in turnkey distributed generation has been a boon for us and our development partners. We’ve increased our staff by 6% between FY15 and FY16, and we are always looking for talented and innovative professionals to grow our capabilities. We know that
many of our partners and customers across the utility, commercial, non-profit, education, and government sectors have also benefited from the incredible growth of the solar energy business.
Has your company made any unique or innovative contributions to solar?
It’s all about creating a solution that allows solar to scale – and a great illustration of that is, again, the recently announced transaction with Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE). MSE is an example of a client who found a unique energy solution: unable to do solar onsite, they still found a way. Through close collaboration, WGL Energy leveraged a diverse energy portfolio and experience in offering tailored renewable energy options. With limited space to install onsite, we pioneered a highly innovative solution to deliver offsite renewable energy from a solar facility in Frederick, Maryland. It’s no wonder offsite solar is one of the fastest-growing sectors within the energy industry. Corporations such as arenas and ballparks around the country can switch to solar, overcome the obstacles of onsite installations, while reducing their carbon footprint and supporting the environment.
Which policies, incentives, or regulatory changes have had the most impact on your business and what is missing that your company could benefit from?
The rise of offsite renewable energy is phenomenal. It demonstrates that hurdles are being overcome with and without policy assistance and that, if structured properly, any organization can enjoy the benefits of cost savings, increased sustainability and budget certainty provided by renewable energy. WGL Energy is in a unique position as it can provide both services through WGL Energy Services, a supplier of retail electricity, and WGL Energy Systems, a key player in the solar market. Because of this position, WGL Energy has been able to take full advantage of programs available in attractive solar states, while also formulating solutions in states, markets or sectors where these programs are not available. WGL Energy’s position is that organizations of all types should benefit from solar power within their existing budget and purchasing parameters.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
Several of our company’s highlights in the past year underscore the fast-paced growth and potential of the solar industry. We are proud to have launched a partnership with Monumental Sports and Entertainment that allows Capital One Arena, home to the Washington Wizards, Capitals, Mystics and Valor, as well as concerts and entertainment events, to purchase power from a new “offsite” solar facility near Frederick, Maryland. In addition, we are excited that a solar project we own and operate at Fort Lesley J. McNair came online this year, one of several projects that are a result of the Capital Solar Challenge (GSA) contract we won in 2016. This year also marked our first solar project in the Commonwealth of Virginia − we now own and operate a 6 MW solar energy system in Danville Utility territory. We’re also pleased to have recently added our first solar project in Pennsylvania. Other milestones include a strategic fuel cell partnership with Bloom Energy, a combined heat and power (CHP) partnership with Tecogen announced this year, and the utility-scale solar project with Mississippi Power that we own and operate at SeaBee base in Gulfport, which celebrated its completion this summer, and more. We are encouraged by the continued interest in integrating solar into the energy plans of customers across the U.S.