Paula Mints, Principal Analyst, Navigant Consulting
Unfortunately the industry’s significant expansion over the past few years continues as one of the most significant challenges facing solar today and is a significant factor holding crystalline technology prices at historic lows. Rumors of low prices and expectations of even lower prices are likely the most significant factors standing in the way of a necessary price increase.
To overcome the expectation of “cheap,” the solar industry should consider retooling its story to focus on quality. Solar electricity is a high quality, reliable, long-lived electricity generating technology with minimal O&M. All solar systems need maintenance (cleaning), and the likelihood of a system needing an inverter replacement is close to 100 percent. However, no energy technology is maintenance-free and the necessity of maintenance is a non-argument that misses the point of solar.
The true value of solar is independence from utility rate volatility — and this is particularly true for distributed generation. The challenge of changing the industry story to one of energy independence is daunting, but it is crucial to the future of solar. We need to redefine ROI industry-wide so that it stands for “Return on Independence,” because the value of independence is too high to be quantified.
Paula Mints is principal analyst, PV Services Program, and associate director in the energy practice at Navigant Consulting.