Letter to the Editor: California Solar Industry Must Come Together

In response to an article published on October 25th about conflicting progress reports on the California Solar Initiative, California Solar Industries Association Executive Director Sue Kateley wrote this letter to RenewableEnergyAccess.com:

Thank you for publishing both the SunCentric and CPUC reports. They both provide information on how far we’ve gone in implementing the California Solar Initiative. Unfortunately, both reports rely on a database that is dynamic. The CPUC and Program Administrators are working on fixing the database so that analyses can be more robust. We appreciate that effort. Additionally, the program has been in a near constant state of change since its rollout in January 2007. It is hard to look back on this program’s first 9 months and project forward with a high degree of accuracy.
With regard to the forecast of California’s future solar sales, there is a lot that can change that can affect the forecast of future solar energy sales. Action on extending the Federal tax credit along with some changes to the structure of those credits might happen before the end of this year. If it does, then we would likely see a revised forecast. Then there are published statements suggesting that some relief may occur in panel prices sometime in 2008. New panel manufacturers are coming to California and that may provide some relief from panel shortages.  Again, a revised forecast would be needed.
There was common ground in the reports. For example, both reports recognize that actions are needed to improve the application and processing of rebate requests. There have been problems. That is certain. But I think from the last Program Forum held two weeks ago, the CPUC and Program Administrators talked openly about processing and implementation problems and made it clear that they will work quickly to get them fixed. These problems address the backlog at PG&E for confirming reservations, shading calculations, the paperwork processing, documenting system sizing, and more. CALSEIA is working with the CPUC and the Program Administrators to implement changes as quickly as possible to achieve that goal.
We have many other hurdles ahead as well. We are all wondering what will happen on December 19 when the Energy Commission adopts its new eligibility criteria. They’ve proposed a lot of things that will, in CALSEIA’s view, disrupt the program and make things more difficult for those in the field trying to sell solar. We need to focus on making sure the Energy Commission hears our concerns so that they, like the CPUC can be part of the solution to expanding the use of solar in the State. We also need to focus on the local permitting and interconnection issues that are similarly impeding our customers from enjoying the use of solar.
I think the most important thing that any reader should take away from both the CPUC and SunCentric reports, is that there are many people are working hard to ensure that the California Solar Initiative achieves both its MW goals and its goal to create a sustaining solar industry in California. Those of us who earn a living doing this feel a lot of urgency to fix the problems. To the members of CALSEIA, you already know, getting this done is a 24/7 activity on the part of your association.
Thank you again,
Sue Kateley
Executive Director
California Solar Energy Industries Association

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