Kevin Smith, CEO, SolarReserve
The most difficult issue in the U.S. continues to be establishing the value proposition of large-scale solar energy with utilities, regulators and politicians. This includes not only convincing stakeholders that solar energy is now competitive on a price basis, but also how to further consider the benefits of energy security, diversity, long-term price stability and the environmental advantages of solar in overall price evaluations.
Many polls have revealed that consumers have begun to support solar. Unfortunately, consumers aren’t really the decision makers in utility-scale applications and energy policy. The ability of conventional energy suppliers to affect policy has limited the growth potential.
The key to advancing our energy policy is taking a long-term view rather than making decisions based on short-term pricing on conventional fuels or failing to recognize the environmental costs that come with conventional energy supply. Solar is much more cost effective today than new-build nuclear or “clean” coal, even when ignoring the environmental benefits of solar. Natural gas prices are low today, but continuing to have natural gas dominate power generation as it has over the past couple of decades is a risky proposition that raises the stakes on both environmental issues and energy price stability.
If you fast-forward into the energy future, it’s pretty clear that solar energy will dominate the landscape. Every day you see more countries expanding their solar energy plans — Europe, China, Australia, Canada, Chile, India, South Africa and more. Even the world’s largest oil supplier, Saudi Arabia, has recognized that dwindling oil supplies are inevitable and are dramatically ramping up solar implementation. It would be a shame if the U.S. is one of the last countries to recognize the value and importance of solar energy.
Kevin Smith is chief executive officer at SolarReserve where he leads the company’s efforts to develop and build large-scale solar energy projects. SolarReserve has more than 3,000 megawatts of projects in development across the US and internationally.