I am sitting here at a solar conference in Arizona, well I was now I am back home, it is informative and educational. But it is also somewhat the same as the last several I have been in attendance or reviewed. Why does this happen, why is the industry still on the same talking points. It is summed up in cost reduction, investor gains, technology cost reduction, investor gains, cost of money, transaction costs, rating and investor gains. It can be a bit deafening and certainly boring at best. In this industry we call energy, solar and/or project development does it not run the path of truth that someone in the path must take a risk and someone must excite the dialog to a level that creates thought and engaged innovation?
I look around at the 30 or so member of the audience and I see 80 plus percent on their laptop, phone or mini laptop, me being one of them. There may even be a few that are still asleep and/or form the conference down the hall, that where I was for breakfast yesterday, they had a better breakfast then we and, so I just joined them for a while. (It was a leadership conference) I guess I am hungry for innovation and new thought that will lead to new ideas. So I am here once again to stir the pot, not in the way Mr. Angus Jones did, but stir the pot and poke the beast none the less.
Everybody wants to talk about the reduction in the cost component of the capital and balance of systems costs. Well this has been reduced by some estimates up to 35% over the past year. The cost to the consumer of electricity has risen as it always does over the past year, the rate of money transaction cost have seen a reduction. Interest rates are lower, the selection of solid investments are less due to real estate issues and other investment options, but the investors still say they are not making enough money to accept the risk, what? All of the cost components are lower, the off taker pays more, yet the investor still has an issue with internal rate return. Really, how much do they want to strangle this industry? They want everyone else to take 100% of the risk; they want everyone else to reduce their cost. When did they lose sight that an investment, by its very nature, is a risk. Get with the game, or just get the you know what out.
Here is my next thought, opinion or rant. Why don’t we focus more on policy, regulation, utility oversight, off take improvement or maybe even utility rate regulation and review? How many really understand and know the rate structure of you own utility? Most of the folks I talk to try to sway the conversation back to the reduction without answering the question. This tells me either they don’t know or they don’t care, at least it indicated they have little insight into the mystery that is called rate regulation and process. I have had discussions with utility rate structure policy folks within a utility and they could not answer basic questions as to the rates, the future view and/or the process that one could play a role in the process of influence into not only understanding but actually making a difference at the rate payer level. I have heard that FREC has made new policy, local PUC have made policy changes and that the industry has made investments and changes in their models. When and where are we going to as an industry grab hold of that and begin to say, hey we are here and we are not going away, work with us and we may not take as many rate payers off you system. When are the policies of organizations such as FERC not going to be swept under the carpet and ignored by the mass of this industry? When?