Newsletter: A Southern energy plan that’s not what it SEEMs

Two camps square off over the future of the Southern grid. Plus, a leading solar developer finds a European buyer.
By Julian Spector

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America likes to think of itself as a bastion of capitalistic competition. But swaths of the country take a different approach to the electricity system, choosing instead to let major utility monopolies run the show.

That’s how it works in the Southeast, where two camps are dueling over how to modernize the grid.

Utility biggies Southern Company, Duke Energy and federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority want to create a Southeast Energy Exchange Market (SEEM) to more efficiently trade power across the region’s 11 states. That could save customers $100 million to $150 million over the next 20 years.

But proponents of clean energy say the region could save several hundred billion dollars in the same period by reforming the market to introduce more openness and competition into the power supply. That would also speed the adoption of renewables, which thrive in places where the cheapest power source wins.

There’s a lot of money on the line here, not to mention the pace of decarbonization for a major region of the U.S.

Canary Media’s Jeff St. John breaks through the noise to explain the facts and arguments at play and the next steps to watch out for.

Solar turnaround leads to European acquisition

Big solar is big business, and one of its leading practitioners got bought this week.

Cypress Creek Renewables went from developing projects in the Carolinas to becoming one of the largest solar developers in the nation. But it ran into tough times in 2019, laying off staff and selling projects to stay in business. 

The investors brought in a new leadership team helmed by Sarah Slusser, who streamlined the business and focused on growth opportunities in competitive markets and corporate clean energy purchases. That culminated in this month’s sale to EQT, a massive European investor that manages 67 billion euros ($79.2 billion) in assets.

European energy companies have been colonizing the U.S. power industry for years. But this is a diversified investor looking at all sectors of the global economy — and then deciding that owning a renewables developer in the U.S. is a priority right now.

Julian Spector is a senior reporter at Canary Media. He reports on batteries, long-duration energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen and clean energy breakthroughs around the world.