Decreasing incentive over time will help build resilience and not inflate the market. It is also important to offer varying levels of incentives for residential, commercial, affordable housing, and non-profit in order to ensure equality for the benefits of solar, and help those who need it most.
The End to the California Solar Initiative (CSI)
Alan H. Lee, Chief Executive Officer at | ecoSolargy
In your opinion, how has CSI impacted a consumer’s intent to install solar panels?
CSI has definitely made the solar industry in California stronger. It made solar installations as competitive as efficiency upgrades with payback. The program made consumers much more likely to install solar because it reduced the payback significantly.
Do you foresee solar construction declining once CSI funds have diminished?
Solar construction will decline, but not as drastically as people might think. CSI has been decreasing over its life as the installed capacity increased in California. This along with declining costs in solar construction has made the industry stronger. ecoSolargy does not expect a sharp decline in solar construction post-CSI.
Are there any changes you would suggest that the CSI program did not address if a new initiative were to be established?
The CSI program had some issues in its beginning with varying time of use charges among utilities. We also feel there could have been a better a balancing between the categories of residential, commercial and non-profit.
Once CSI has ended, do you anticipate the implementation of another state initiative?
I expect California will institutive another state incentive. This might not be directly related to solar, but California will most likely continue with its RPS goals such as the cap and trade policy it has been implementing. These indirectly benefit solar by making conventional energy sources account for their own externalities.
What does the future for solar panel installation look like to you?
I think the solar industry will continue to grow especially as consumers face higher electricity prices. Energy intensive industries especially will turn towards solar more. Solar prices have been declining continuously as with the market growing consistently over the last two decades.
Can the industry survive in the long term without support from Federal and or State initiatives?
The industry will survive. New technologies are being developed that are making the manufacturing process cheaper and cleaner. As conventional energy sources are held responsible for their externalities and limited fuel supply.
Many other states have their own solar initiatives. What can other states learn from this initiative?
Solar incentives are effective. It is important to build initiatives with foresight. Decreasing incentive over time will help build resilience and not inflate the market. It is also important to offer varying levels of incentives for residential, commercial, affordable housing, and non-profit in order to ensure equality for the benefits of solar, and help those who need it most.
What’s in it for the states to keep supporting these initiatives?
Solar power provides peak power, which is the hardest for utilities to produce. In turn, this power is most expensive as well. Solar provides this peak power with no fuel costs. Our electricity infrastructure is aging and solar power provides cleaner, safer electricity generation that is also not centralized. This helps with our transformers as well minimizing potential security risks. The other benefit is the health to the state’s people. By investing in clean technology, a state minimizes the pollution going into its air and watersheds. There is also minimal potential for accidents with solar like oil and slurry spills and meltdowns.
Are there other ways to support the growth of the solar industry without government subsidies?
There are many ways to incentivize solar. To name a few there are the Renewable Portfolio Standards and building standards like in Lancaster, CA. Governments can also start carbon taxes or cap and trade programs that can help solar.
Alan H. Lee is the founder and CEO of ecoSolargy. Lee’s entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to the environment led him to found the Southern California-based solar solutions provider. Prior to establishing ecoSolargy, Lee was a Program Manager at AECOM, where he supervised environmental programs for refineries, ports and military bases.
Lee holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from UC Irvine.
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