Wendy Arienzo, CEO, ArrayPower
The biggest issue facing the solar industry is steady demand. 2012 is the year of global uncertainties, and if there is one thing that is bad for business, it is uncertainty.
European governments, sensitive to a changing political climate as well as looming economic austerity measures, are responding with reductions in and restructuring of feed-in tariff programs with a net effect of cooling demand. Germany has been the mainstay of solar demand but has modified its feed-in tariff to focus on smaller installations and residences. Italy opted to continue incentives in its Conto Energia 5, but through an extremely complex program. The softening of the European market combined with an uncertain future of incentive programs results in serious doubt that Europe can continue as the bastion of solar.
China presents the fastest growing global market — however, this is largely a China for China market stimulated by the government to boost outtake for Chinese module production. But for how long?
On the home front, the U.S. continues to suffer from a lack of consistent energy strategy and an ambivalent attitude toward renewable incentives. The 1603 Treasury program failed to be extended and, if that was not enough, the Department of Commerce supported tariffs on Chinese cells — both serving to quell demand. We cannot minimize the destabilizing effects of an election year, the lack of an articulated energy policy by either party and increasing anti-renewable energy lobbyism.
The time has come for the U.S. to stand behind Secretary Chu’s energy vision and drive consistent actions — ranging from R&D funding to financial tools — to support the solar industry. Reaffirming commitment to state RPS goals and deploying tools to streamline permitting and financing processes will go a long way toward driving confidence and ultimately, industry growth.
Wendy Arienzo brings 30 years of semiconductor industry experience to her role as CEO of power electronics company ArrayPower, providers of the Sequenced Inverter. Her previous experience includes technical and management positions with IBM, Phillips and NXP Semiconductors, as well as a stint developing polycrystalline silicon cells in Italy.