The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

Hamm: Solar Industry and Utilities Don't Speak the Same Language…Yet

To kick off SPI, I sat down with the Solar Electric Power Association's Julia Hamm at Solar Central on the SPI tradeshow floor for a quick interview (watch the full video interview below). I wanted to hear mostly about how utilities are continuing to evolve their business plans to incorporate more solar.

“It’s not going to be a fast process,” said Hamm.  She said that there is a lot of discussion taking place behind closed doors and in one-on-one conversations with industry stakeholders but so far those conversations are just talk.  Industry experts point out repeatedly that the solar industry, which is wrought with innovators, entrepreneurs, and bootstrap-type companies is almost fundamentally at odds with the utility industry, which is a highly regulated, 100-year old industry that is inherently risk-adverse.  “They are two very different parts of the energy spectrum,” said Hamm.

But despite these differences, solar is quickly becoming utilities’ fastest growing electricity source. In all, there were some 62,000 PV systems connected to the grid in 2011, a 38% increase over 2010.  With costs coming down and technology improvements increasing the efficiency of systems and the rate at which installations are happening, there is no doubt that in the near future utilities will see solar as THE fastest growing energy source in their portfolios.

Hamm also mentioned that in many cases, solar PV is competitive with other forms of electricity.  In addition, it is an excellent way for utilities to mitigate the risk of future price increases of other fuels.  She pointed out that San Antonio-based CPS Energy, the largest municipal gas and electric utility in the country, is adding 400 MW of large-scale solar capacity to its territory, largely for risk mitigation.  On Tuesday, SEPA awarded Doyle Beneby, CPS Energy’s CEO with its Utility CEO of the Year Award for all of the great strides it has made incorporating solar onto its grid. “By taking a long term look at the value solar adds to a utility’s portfolio, you can very easily justify the cost,” she said.

As for distributed generation, utilities will have to adapt.  Hamm pointed out that it isn’t just PV that’s causing a disruption.  Storage, the smart grid, electric vehicles, micro-grids and other technologies are giving customers more control over their own energy use.  Some experts at SPI believe that utility solar business models won’t evolve until customers start to demand it.

“Solar can be a great solution for utilities but you [solar companies] have to understand what are the problems utilities are trying to solve and how solar can be a solution to [them], she said. 

RELATED ARTICLES

Listen Up: Charging Your Electric Vehicle

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World Electric vehicles are great: they’re affordable, great for the environment and low maintenance. And where electric rates are low — or if you have rooftop solar power — EVs are cheaper to drive per mile than gas-powered cars...
Google

Greenpeace Raises Pressure on Internet Companies to Go Renewable

Andrew Burger, Contributor For at least four years, Greenpeace has been raising public awareness and putting pressure on the world's largest data and cloud computing center providers to fuel their operations with clean, renewable power. In May, Green...
A biogas plant concept from Weltec Biopower

Europe Versus Renewable Energy?

Tildy Bayar, Contributor Wednesday morning’s 'Regulation and the Marketplace' panel discussion at POWER-GEN Europe in Amsterdam got off to a lively start with a presentation from Randy Mott, president of Polish biogas- and geothermal-base...

The Real Price of Free Solar

William Hirshman, International Correspondent

For a technology known for its tranquility and quietness, the noise surrounding PV as solar leasing becomes the driving force for sales is getting uncomfortably shrill — the pitch of sales pitches is rising.

Jennifer Runyon is chief editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com and Renewable Energy World magazine, coordinating, writing and/or editing columns, features, news stories and blogs for the publications. She also serves as conference chair of Renewable ...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 3
1505REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Bankability and Support Mechanisms for Renewable Energy Projects

Setting appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks is essential for the...

CRGM - Online Training on Grid Integration of Renewable Energy

The training is useful for persons who would like to learn more about me...

Applying Renewable Energy - Online Training

RENAC Online offers a selection of courses on a wide variety of renewabl...

COMPANY BLOGS

Three Strategies to Reduce Customer Acquisition Costs

When facing soft costs, many solar installers often think of the costs s...

8 Tips For A Stellar Proposal

The way in which you frame your product or service in a proposal can mea...

7 Tips For Active Listening

Selling efficiency is a two-way street: You can’t just bombard you...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS