In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule to restrict the amount of carbon dioxide released from power plants. The rule calls for reducing carbon 30 percent by 2030 over 2005 levels. Many have praised the aggressive proposal, while others are less favorable.
Solar racking companies battled it out on the floor of Solar Power International (SPI) in late October, demonstrating new system improvements to shave critical minutes off installation time and pennies off the per-watt cost. While many basic ground, flat roof and sloped roof mounting systems feature dramatically reduced costs, the competition is still on: exhibitor display signs touting cost per watt were prevalent, and several portended to be easily breaking the single-digit cents range with their offerings.
Kenya’s renewable energy ambitions have attracted growing attention in recent months. There has been a strong uptick in interest in the country’s wind energy potential in particular. Last year, Kenya’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum said in an investment prospectus for 2013-2016 that it plans to boost wind power generation by 630 MW as part of its target to increase electricity levels by 5,000 MW by 2016. In March, the Kenyan government also signed a financing document for the largest private investment in Kenya.
As markets for solar PV inverters become more competitive, manufacturers are being forced to adapt in a bid to maintain revenues or hold market share. This is a trend that has been evident for some years now. As far back as 2012, Dexter Gauntlett, now a senior analyst with Navigant Research, noted: “Inverter companies must increase functionality, reduce cost, and differentiate themselves from the growing competition.” He explained that while industry incumbents have the advantage of size and market reach, disruptive technological innovation by well-funded start-ups and early-stage companies was rapidly changing the face of the industry.
For most people, the best way to build a green or fossil-free portfolio will be to use mutual funds or an investment advisor. The exceptions are those who like to do things for themselves, and understand the significant advantage that saving just a fraction of a percent in annual fees can make to the long term performance of a portfolio.
May 9 was a big day for the solar industry. Forget big — huge. It’s a rare occasion when the most powerful person in the world takes to the bully pulpit to sing the virtues of a particular industry, and even rarer when that praise is backed up by action and dollars. But that’s precisely the gift that advocates of the U.S. solar industry were given when President Obama announced a massive, $2 billion federal funding package in combination with executive orders and hundreds of private and public sector commitments to drive forward one of the most rapidly growing renewable energy industries in the nation.
On 9 April the European Commission adopted its new rules on State Aid in the energy sector. The measure is crucial for the future development of renewables, which for the time being at least are still almost wholly reliant on state hand outs in some form or other to secure private investment.
As the world's largest solar energy market, Germany sets an example for the do's and don'ts of integrating solar into its power supply. And it has indeed put in place policy and technology mandates in recent years to help it maintain the health of the grid.
Not all options are ready to step into the spotlight, though. Master limited partnerships (MLP) and real estate investment trusts (REIT) promise more attractive tax treatment than securitizations or yieldcos, but they require some heavy lifting and difficult decisions at the highest levels: MLPs need an act of Congress even for an infinitesimal language tweak to remove a legislative exclusion to solar and wind, while REITs involve a touchy reclassification of assets from the IRS that could have broader and undesirable tax consequences. Yet another model gaining traction is a more institutionalized version of crowdfunding, led by Mosaic (technically they call it "crowdsourcing"), but crowdfunding is awaiting more clarity from the Securities and Exchange Commission about what rules must apply.