Utility and Solar Industries Called Upon to Work in Collaboration to Increase Solar Capacity Thirty Fold by 2016
Washington, DC—Today, in conjunction with the kick-off of Solar Power International 2008, the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) issued a challenge to the U.S. electric utility and solar industries to work in collaboration to meet
of increased solar deployment would represent more than 60 billion kilowatt-hours of solar generation, 440,000 permanent jobs, and over $230 billion in investments and associated economic development benefits.
"With the United States' growing electricity consumption and the need for climate change solutions, the utility and solar industries must work together to find innovative win-win business scenarios that result in significant investments in solar
power," said Julia Hamm, SEPA executive director. "In the years to come, we need an economically-driven solar business environment in which utilities, solar companies, and electricity consumers find mutual financial benefits from the
capacity, energy, and environmental solutions offered by solar electricity."
Long-term U.S. market stability—provided by the eight year extension of the federal solar investment tax credit, removal of the $2,000 cap on residential systems, and new eligibility for electric utilities—sets the stage for this significant
challenge to be met. "The current suite of solar policies, including net metering, renewable portfolio standards, and piecemeal state incentives, will not be enough to achieve this goal in today's poor economy. We also need new business
models, project configurations, and collaborations to emerge," added Hamm. "The long-term value to the United States is multi-faceted. It's not just about clean energy, but also about economic development and job creation."
The new solar electric capacity will come from a combination of large-scale power plants, including photovoltaics, concentrating solar thermal electric, and distributed photovoltaic rooftop systems for both the residential and commercial
sectors. Prior to 2008, the predominant solar market was distributed PV systems on homes and businesses.
"A recent SEPA study shows that 10 utilities in the U.S. have integrated ninety seven percent of all grid connected solar capacity," said Hamm. "There are over 3,300 electric utilities in this country, but 10 of them have dominated the solar
landscape. In addition, a single utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) in California, has within its service territory, more than fifty percent of all grid-connected PV systems in the country. PG&E should be commended and
encouraged to continue as a solar leader, but other utilities around the country must quickly begin to close this gap."
To meet the aggressive solar capacity growth forecasts, SEPA calls for:
1. Utility ownership of solar power projects. The utility and solar industries must collaborate to find program structures, such as utility ownership of distributed photovoltaics, that provide a winning scenario for both industries, as well as for customers at large. The solar industry can utilize this new market segment as a buffer until home and small business owners are back on more solid economic footing.
2. Increased utility engagement in solar markets. The utility and solar industries must work together to get more utilities engaged, starting by increasing the solar knowledge base of utility employees, from top executives down to distribution engineers. We must move beyond having ninety seven percent of all grid-connected solar installations in just 10 utilities' service territories.
3. Greased wheels. The utility and solar industries must work in partnership with regulators and investors to push for approval and funding of new transmission projects and the development of smart grid configurations to expedite the timeframe in which new utility-scale and distributed solar projects can come on line and provide maximum value.
4. Development of innovative approaches. By working in collaboration, the utility and solar industries can make great strides towards modernizing today's electricity infrastructure and offering customers affordable and clean power. But the status quo will not achieve the necessary results. We need bold new ideas developed in tandem for the mutual benefit of both industries, and society at large.
About the Solar Electric Power Association:
SEPA's unique partnership of utilities, solar companies, and other organizations with an investment in the solar industry provides unparalleled educational and networking opportunities for its Members to best capitalize on renewable energy investments. SEPA products and services offer the most balanced, unbiased and broadly expert intelligence to guide new solar business models, while SEPA's conferences and events build the key relationships necessary to drive businesses forward. For more information visit www.solarelectricpower.org
About Solar Power International:
Solar Power International is the largest solar event in the United States. Solar Power International '08 features more than 60 breakout sessions and 425 exhibitors from every corner of the solar industry. Together, the conference program and expo floor encompass the complete range of solar energy technologies, including photovoltaics, concentrating photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, solar hot water and space heating and cooling. Solar Power International is presented jointly by the Solar Electric Power Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association. www.solarpowerinternational.com