Letter to the editor: 12 steps solar program, revisited

A PV World reader responds to Paula Mints’ column about a solar 12-step program to wean from incentives, with some suggestions of his own.

Editor’s note: This letter from Joel Davidson, owner of SOLutions in Solar Electricity, is in response to Paula Mints’ column The 12-step solar program: Toward an incentive-less future. He offers his own take on her 12 steps.

February 1, 2011

To the editor of Photovoltaics World:

It’s difficult to improve upon Paula’s words, and I would be remiss not to thank her for her useful statistics and insights that follow in the tradition of Paul Maycock (PVNews) and Bob Johnson (Strategies Unlimited). Tracking the PV industry is a daunting task because there are lots of solar “liars, damn liars, and statistics.”

Paula’s 12-step article was inspiring. Why not get rid of all energy incentives? Here’s my version of her plan:

  • Admit it. People are powerless to stop subsidies to the coal, oil, gas, and nuclear (COGN) industries that have more economic and political power than most nations.
  • Focus on lower technology and system pollution. Develop innovative ways to reduce COGN resource depletion and pollution. Wean COGN from its reliance on incentives.
  • Focus on the system. Fit the system into the region, the customer, and the application. Build electric power plants in the neighborhoods that use the power.
  • Develop products — not just technologies — tailored to the application and the customer. BIPV is not just shingles or roof tiles. Perhaps COGN can be customer-integrated — it’s worth trying.
  • Look for three characteristics in markets and customers: a need for a reliable electricity source, price elasticity, and willingness to pay the high upfront cost. Sorry, no deals here. Higher cost is inevitable as rising population increases resource depletion and scarcity.
  • Stop banging the grid parity gong. Talk about competitive electricity pricing market-by-market based on environmental attributes. Solar is already competitive against non-renewable fueled electricity.
  • Delight the customer. Make the world better for their grandchildren’s grandchildren.
  • Form a consortium among renewables manufacturers to create a financial war chest to battle the increasingly desperate COGN industry.
  • Invest in system design and balance of systemsincluding ecological systems.
  • Hey, governments: All solar is amazing. Stop looking for a magical, heretofore undiscovered technology or material that will change industry dynamics forever. All of this stuff sits in the sun for >25 years and reliably delivers electricity — what more do you want? Amen!
  • Hey, governments and politicians: Change isn’t cheap. Renewable energy and solar is the future, and getting to it will cost about as much as it took to develop the COGN industries.
  • Hey, industry: Electric tariffs are a-changin’. The trend is clear: Tariffs are changing. Adapting to this change is crucial. So, you’d better adapt to higher electric prices to pay for COGN’s impact on the environment.


Joel Davidson
Owner, SOLutions in Solar Electricity


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