It is never really fun to bear witness to self-delusion. Last week's Intersolar conference in Germany was one of those occasions. The provisions were delivered, the table was laid, the guests showed up, the hum of clinking glasses and chatter was present – but the party never really got going. Under the surface, the enthusiasm was muted and the proclamations that things had stabilized rang a little off-key. To a trained ear, the click-click of hope-to-be was drowning out the soft purr of clarity.
The CEOs gave their speeches about how the difficult circumstances had really sharpened their minds to the importance of understanding customers' needs. They said "shame on us" for not being ahead of the wave (tsunami?) of this downtrend. They blamed external conditions – like Spain and an "unforeseen" credit crisis – on their situation. They talked about how by the second quarter, or the third quarter at the latest, this market would find a bottom and that sequential shipments were starting to climb. Most puzzlingly, they all suggested that the downturn was a time to press ahead and gain market share. (I suppose a lesson about summing percentages would be unappreciated.)
They ignored the plummeting module, cell and silicon prices. They looked past the halls and conference breakout rooms at less than half the attendance of last year. They talked about the need for policy makers to give them just one more fix, (I mean subsidy to correct for un-priced externalities) and then they will go straight (I mean achieve grid parity). They laughed a little too loud.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross describes the five stages that the human mind passes through sequentially as it grapples with a significant loss. The first, denial, was very much on display this week. I am sure that as the reality off the oversupply and the loss of corporate values continues (despite recent upticks in market enthusiasm) we will see progression through the remaining stages – anger, bargaining, depression, and then finally acceptance.
In the meantime, dancing at the edge of reality will prove to be a hollow pleasure – but it is still far more preferable than what is soon to come. And a note of optimism may be found here. If this article makes you angry, congratulations – only three stages to go.