Mark Cerasuolo, Strategic Brand Marketing Manager, OutBack Power
The biggest challenge facing the solar industry is politicization, which is to be expected in an election year. However, solar is an unusually partisan issue. Ironically, solar energy is now more cost-effective than nuclear, which was heavily government-subsidized for generations. Solar is uniquely cartel-, utility- and monopoly-free, and unlike most wind and hydro systems, the resulting energy can be used at point-of-generation.
So at the intersection of big money and big government, solar — a politically divisive topic and the target of negative scrutiny — faces an unusually stiff headwind. Taking the politics out of the agenda and replacing them with economic objectivity and reason is the key to stability, which is what the solar industry needs to reach its full potential.
A prime example is the multitude of incentives promoting solar. State and federal incentives offset part of the cost of a solar installation, and with net metering policies users can save more money by selling unused electricity generated by their solar panels back into the utility. However, the myriad state and regional net metering policies are changing.
To ensure long-term growth, incentives and programs that accelerate installations need to be consistent. For example, Washington state has a good production incentive program. When the incentives are up for renewal or facing expiration, the solar industry sees a surge of installations before the window closes. This hinders long-term growth.
We need less rollercoaster growth that is filled with ups, downs, and non-growth periods, and more of a smooth ramp of constant progress. This can only happen when the industry is consistent about incentive policies and programs and when users understand that the pricing pressure faced by the solar industry works in their favor. This results in efficient solar technology becoming more and more affordable.
Mark Cerasuolo manages strategic brand marketing at OutBack Power, a designer and manufacturer of balance-of-system components for renewable and other energy applications. Cerasuolo has also held senior marketing roles with leading brands in electrical and electronics products, including Leviton Manufacturing, Harman International, Bose Corporation and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).