SPI 2016: Time for solar energy industry to grow up

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email

The solar industry must grow up and revamp its approach to lobbying, a panel of US solar and utility experts have said.

Speaking at the opening session of the SPI exhibition in Las Vegas, former NRG CEO David Crane, said the sector had huge potential and now had to match that scale with its behaviour.

“The solar industry has to stop acting like it’s the alternative energy industry, because that puts you on the kids' table. This is the primary source of new generation in the United States in 2016. We belong on the adult table,” said Crane who is now with sustainability and resource scarcity private equity firm Pegasus Capital. He is also on the board of ACWA Power.

Crane left NRG, a largely coal-based utility, after a period of investing heavily in solar left played poorly with shareholders. He added that the industry was capable of scaling up greatly, despite conservative forecasts from bodies like the International Energy Agency, citing examples from other sectors including smartphone penetration.

“Regardless of where the data has come from, people linearly extrapolate from a small number and after 40 years get another smaller number, but there is such a thing as exponential growth and I think the solar industry is on the cusp of that,” said Crane.

As part of the panel’s roadmap toward maturity, Nat Kreamer, president and CEO of Spruce, formerly Clean Power Finance, urged the sector to review how it funds and executes its lobbying efforts.

“Not enough people invest in policy,” he said. “We don’t invest as much in policy as the wind industry. Our politics give us broader reach, we’re truly bi-partisan, we have this awesome opportunity but it is like pulling teeth,” said Kreamer. He added that the industry had to invest in “options for its future” rather than choosing only to fund lobbying on specific issues as and when they arise.

The clear example is the industry’s targeted, and ultimately, successful campaign to secure an extension to the investment tax credit. Steve Malnight, senior vice president, regulatory relations at the Pacific Gas & Electric Company, and chair of the Smart Electric Power Alliance, called on utilities and solar companies to work together on the integration of more solar power.

“Both sides have generally been very short-term focused, ’what’s the problem directly in front of me today?’ I understand why smaller growth companies tend to be a little short-term focused but utilities should be thinking long-term,” he said.

In a lively and wide-reaching discussion chaired by Stanford University’s Jeff Ball the group also noted the significance of the election characterising it as “relentless hostility” versus someone who can build on the work of the previous eight years. If Donald Trump were defeated by Hillary Clinton, she would have an opportunity to do something “creative” said Crane, and unlike the first years of the Obama administration there would be no “triage” related to the financial crisis.

Read Next

January 28, 2022
Global investment in renewables rose to new heights in 2021 as solar and wind deployment surged, but total energy transition expenditure needs to triple in the coming years to get on track for net zero, according to new research from BloombergNEF.
January 26, 2022
Proposed changes to California’s net metering (NEM) incentive programme will severely reduce residential PV’s value proposition in the state, cutting its solar market in half by 2024, Wood Mackenzie has warned.
January 26, 2022
Home security giant ADT is evolving from a security company to a smart home company, with around 80% of its revenue coming from its smart home business, said its president and CEO Jim DeVries
January 26, 2022
Shares in ‘Solar Module Super League’ (SMSL) member JinkoSolar’s operating subsidiary surged on the company’s Shanghai stock market debut, closing at more than double their listing price.
January 24, 2022
More than 260 companies in the US clean energy sector are demanding urgent action on the US$1.75 trillion Build Back Better (BBB) Act, claiming that US$2 billion is being lost in economic activity every month the long-awaited bill is delayed.
January 24, 2022
Polysilicon producer Daqo New Energy is expecting a five-fold increase in net profit from its Xinjiang subsidiary as it continues to progress expansion plans.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
February 23, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 8, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 23, 2022
Austin, Texas, USA
Solar Media Events
March 29, 2022
Lisbon, Portugal
Solar Media Events
April 25, 2022
Berlin, Germany