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US Southeast on track for 25,000 MW of solar capacity by 2023, report shows

States and utilities in the U.S. Southeast are on track to install 25,000 MW of solar capacity by 2023 after hitting nearly 10,000 MW of installed capacity by the end of 2019, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said in its annual report.

The clean energy advocate said its four-year forecast shows solar in the Southeast "exceeding 10% of total capacity" by 2023, in addition to eclipsing 5% of retail sales. The forecast shows 22,500 MW of utility-scale solar and 2,500 MW of distributed solar online in 2023.

"Southeastern utilities have begun uniting the economic advantage of utility-scale projects with subscription models to offer creative community/shared solar opportunities," the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy wrote in the report.

The Florida Public Service Commission in March approved NextEra Energy Inc. subsidiary Florida Power & Light Co.'s 1,490-MW SolarTogether initiative, dubbed the "largest community solar program" in the U.S.

On the distributed solar front, the group pointed out that the South Carolina Energy Freedom Act signed into law in May 2019 lifted the state's cap on net metering for customer-generators.

In a ranking based on "watts per customer," looking at the amount of installed solar relative to the total number of customers served, Duke Energy Corp. subsidiary Duke Energy Progress LLC held the top spot for the third year in a row. Duke Energy Progress is followed by Dominion Energy Inc. subsidiary Dominion Energy South Carolina Inc., fellow Duke Energy subsidiary Duke Energy Carolinas LLC and Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power Co.

"Duke Energy remains the region's solar leader in installed solar capacity, but can no longer claim to have half of all the solar in the Southeast," the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy wrote. "Significant expansion by other utilities have begun to close the gap and reduce that regional lead."

Duke Energy is responsible for 4,458 MW of the 9,622 MW of solar capacity installed through the end of 2019, the report shows, followed by Southern at 1,621 MW and NextEra utilities FPL and Gulf Power Co. at 1,426 MW.

Santee Cooper, known legally as South Carolina Public Service Authority, ranked near the bottom of the list but plans to ramp up its solar investments over the next four years.

North Carolina, which had 3,541 MW of installed solar capacity by the end of 2019, may soon lose its hold atop the list.

The environmental watchdog has previously expected Florida to surpass North Carolina in solar capacity by 2022.

"Florida continued its rapid scale-up of both utility scale as well as distributed solar," the report states. "We now project Florida will have the most installed solar capacity in the Southeast by 2021."