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

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. 

Untitled Document

Get All the Renewable Energy World News Delivered to Your Inbox - FREE!

Subscribe to Renewable Energy World Magazine and our award-winning e-Newsletter to stay up to date on current news and industry trends.

 Subscribe Now



Evaluating the Case for Module-Level Shutdown

Hannes Knopf With 2014 NEC adoption in full swing, many are anticipating what the next version of the code will hold for the PV in...

A Case Study in Energy-Transition Momentum

Tim King South Australia is clearly at the forefront of the global energy transition as it establishes a fast-moving model oth...

Listen Up: Can I Get Solar if my Roof is Shaded?

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World Rooftop solar panels only work when they are in direct sunlight. So if you have a partially shaded roof, the output o...

US Senate Democrats Unveil Energy Bill That Restores PTC and Extends ITC

Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg Senate Democrats unveiled a bill that would provide more tax credits for renewable energy while killing some tax ince...


CleanTX Releases New White Paper on the Future of Texas Solar in Texas

We love this new White Paper from our clean energy partners CleanTX

Customized Energy Solutions Executes Agreement with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (“MassCEC”) and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (“DOER”) for Important Energy Storage Study

Customized Energy Solutions (CES) has entered into agreements with Massachusetts Clean ... Welcomes Jennifer Delony as Associate Editor

PennWell Corporation is pleased to announce that Jennifer Delony has joined the company...

New Officers and Board Members Announced by IREC

A new slate of officers was elected by IREC's board of directors at its recent annual m...


Hawaii: World’s First Hydrogen Economy?

Can Hawaii become the world’s first renewable energy/hydrogen economy? Hawaii’s small size, isolation ...
energy efficiency

Beyond the Trend: Maximizing the Impact of Your Energy Efficiency Solution

A revolution is happening in the energy sector. From the new regulations pushed out earlier this summer by the EPA’s ...

Northeast States Create Cap-and-Trade Program for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Northeast states have worked together for several decades to address air quality issues and, more recently, climate c...

Why the Solar PV Industry Should Love Geothermal Heat Pumps Pt 2

It’s a marriage made in heaven: Solar PV and Geothermal Heat Pumps Part 2 of a 6-Part Series Prevailing Heati...


Jennifer Runyon is chief editor of 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 ...


Volume 18, Issue 4


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


Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon



Successfully Integrating Solar: A Proactive Approach

•      What does the increasing solar penetrati...

Solar Power Asset Management and Performance

SEIA and SEPA collaborated with industry leaders to present the first ev...

Solar Power Northeast

  From the team that produced Solar Power Southeast and the sol...


Fast facts: 4 things you need to know about the state of solar fina...

Fast facts: 4 things you need to know about the state of solar financing...

10 Questions You Should Be Asking

Tony Robbins is fond of saying that the quality of your life is directly...

Join us at the New Solar Power Northeast

From the team that produced Solar Power Southeast and the sold out P...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now