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

Rooftop Solar Panels

Hypocrisy? While Buffett Champions Renewables, His Company Fights Rooftop Solar

Mark Chediak, Noah Buhayar and Margaret Newkirk, Bloomberg Warren Buffett highlights how his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. utilities make massive investments in renewable energy. Meanwhile, in Nevada, the company is fighting a plan that would encourage more residents to use green power.
Japan Microgrid

Born from Disaster: Japan Establishes First Microgrid Community

Junko Movellan, Correspondent Although Japan's Fukushima prefecture is most commonly associated with the 2011 disaster due to the nuclear power melt-down, Miyazaki prefecture, located north of Fukushima, suffered from the largest death toll, close to 10...
Renewable Energy Finance

Clean Energy ETFs Are on a Tear

Eric Balchunas, Bloomberg Green investing used to be synonymous with losing money. But while the S&P 500 Index is up 2 percent this year, and the MSCI All-Country World Index is up 5 percent, clean energy ETFs have double-digit re...

Wheels, Towers and Trees: Unconventional Renewable Energy Technologies in the Pipeline

Andrew Williams, International Correspondent A number of companies around the world are developing novel technologies in an effort to grab a slice of the global renewable energy market.  Although many of these technologies are simple incremental improvements to e...
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

03/01/2015
Volume 18, Issue 3
file

STAY CONNECTED

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

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

EU PVSEC 2015 (European PV Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition)

The EU PVSEC is the largest international Conference for Photovoltaic re...

CA Wine Industry's 2015 Solar Update- WEBINAR

Proceeds from event registration will go to the CA Sustainable Win...

Energy Security: Opportunity Power with the Sunny Boy Secure Power ...

Wouldn’t it be great to have a grid-tied inverter that could still...

COMPANY BLOGS

EU PVSEC 2014: Call for Papers Receives Great Response

More than 1,500 contributions apply for presentation in AmsterdamScienti...

EU PVSEC 2014 extends its Scope

Added focus on application and policy topicsAbstracts for conference con...

Harnessing the #ElonEffect: Deconstructing the PR Success of Tesla’...

As most of the world has heard by now, Tesla and its co-founder, Elon Mu...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS