Community Solar and Virtual Net Metering

Utility Technology Disruption Report

Utilities across the United States have been deploying community solar (CS) programs since 2010. These programs were designed to offer solar energy to residential and commercial users in multi-story buildings and those without an adequate roof to support solar electricity generation. Customers benefit from a solar project that is hosted outside the utility’s premises but utilizes its transmission and distribution infrastructure. CS is enabled by virtual net metering, which allows consumers to offset part or all of their electricity bills with the electricity produced by the solar project. At the same time, utilities improve customer satisfaction and limit the economic and technical impact that rooftop solar generation can have on their business.

By the end of 2015, 88.6 MW of capacity was deployed under CS programs across the United States, representing an estimated $175 million in revenue from those installations. The total installed capacity for CS programs across the country is expected to be 1.5 GW in 2020, representing a $2.5 billion market. A number of drivers, such as lower system cost and sustained demand for clean energy in the residential and commercial sector, point toward the potential for CS to capture 2% of the solar market. However, the resulting decrease in utility control and increase in retail competition will require a rethinking of current utility business models and their electricity generation mix.

This slide-based Navigant Research Utility Technology Disruption Report examines the CS market in the United States, with a focus on technology and policy trends, customer adoption, utility rollouts, and the vendor landscape. Cost curve projections and adoption forecasts are provided through 2025, along with estimated capacity distribution by U.S. state. Featuring Navigant Research’s Utility Technology Disruption Matrix and Execution Grid, the report also examines implications for traditional utility business models, provides utility case studies, and offers strategic recommendations for industry stakeholders to position for long-term success.

Key Questions Addressed:
  • What is the state of solar PV technology and how quickly are customers adopting it?
  • What are the market drivers for community solar (CS) and virtual net metering in the United States?
  • What factors may inhibit CS program expansion in the United States?
  • How quickly will CS programs grow in various regions around the United States?
  • Who are the major players in the CS value chain?
  • What are the potential threats and opportunities that CS programs present to utilities?
  • What actions can utilities take to benefit from CS programs and avoid disruption to existing processes?
Who needs this report?
  • Utilities
  • Solar PV manufacturers
  • Solar developers
  • U.S. state regulatory agencies
  • Investor community

Table of Contents

Executive Summary Technology





Cost vs. Demand


Vendor Ecosystem

Utility Partnerships


Opportunities & Threats


Utility Execution Grid

Business Models


Utility Evolution

Scope of Study

List of Charts and Figures

  • Selected CS Programs, United States: 2010-2015
  • Distribution of CS Capacity by State: 2015
  • 2020 Estimate
  • Key CS Elements
  • Technology Adoption
  • U.S. Addressable Solar Market: 2015-2020
  • Solar Installation Costs and CS Deployment Curve, United States: 2016-2025
  • CS Vendor Landscape
  • Program Administrators and Developers/Utility Partnerships
  • Navigant Research Utility Disruption Matrix
  • Navigant Research Utility Execution Grid: CS
  • CS Business Model Attributes
  • Third-Party-Owned Community Solar Rollout
  • Utility Owned Community Solar Rollout

List of Tables

  • Holy Cross Community Solar Gardens
  • Tucson Electric Power Bright Tucson CS Program
  • Consumers Energy Solar Gardens Program

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