We’re only one week out from this year’s U.S. Solar Market Insight Conference, where GTM Research, Greentech Media and SEIA partner to spend two days focusing on the state and future of the domestic solar industry.

Our team at GTM Research spends much of the year thinking about the right mix of topics for this show. It’s a tall order -- there is no shortage of important market dynamics, nor of solar conferences. So we seek to cover the big-ticket issues (such as securitization) in more actionable ways while also highlighting trends that will be important in the longer term, but are often left off the stage at conferences (such as electricity rate design).

This year is particularly special because we’ll be releasing the latest edition of the GTM Research/SEIA quarterly U.S. Solar Market Insight report at the show, so the data could not be fresher.

We’re excited for the sessions and even more excited for the speaker lineup. To whet your appetite, here are some themes we’ll be covering (you can see the full agenda here).

Bridging the Utility-Solar Divide

The relationship between utilities and the solar industry has never been so complicated, so important, or so charged. Between net metering battles, utilities investing in solar companies, and PV integration challenges, the future of U.S. solar will depend on its relationship with the companies that own the lines and wires. We designed four sessions to cover different elements of this topic:

  1. Fireside Chat: Tomorrow’s Utility in a Distributed Generation World
  2. The Future of Net Energy Metering and Electricity Rate Design
  3. Solar/Storage Business Models: The Market Beyond the Hype
  4. Innovation at the Grid Edge: The Foundation for a High-Penetration PV Future

Identifying and Expanding Distributed Generation Markets

The bedrock of GTM Research's U.S. market analysis is extremely granular tracking and forecasting of state markets, strategies and cost reduction opportunities. We design these sessions to offer immediate, actionable intelligence on market opportunities across the country. Three sessions will help us get there:

  1. The Next Growth Markets: Looking Beyond the Obvious
  2. The Evolution of Residential PV Customer Acquisition Strategies
  3. Distributed PV Technology: Trends and Innovations

Debates: The Big Questions

The signature element of GTM conferences, our debate sessions take discussions from the halls of solar shows and put them on stage. I personally love these debates, and we have two great topics this year:

  1. Will Smaller Installers Survive in Tomorrow’s Solar Market?
  2. Will the Market Need the ITC in 2017?

Financing Models and Bottlenecks

Not only is the future of project finance one of the most important questions for the market, but it is also one of the most difficult topics to turn into real, meaningful conversion at a conference. I know I’ve personally sat through too many sessions where the takeaways are 1) tax equity is still tight; 2) we need more sources of capital; 3) small projects and small portfolios are hard to finance; but 4) everyone on the stage thinks they have it figured out.

This year, instead of running that session, we’ve designed three topics to cover a mix of newer financing strategies and, just as importantly, the factors that will determine solar’s risk perception (and thus cost of capital) down the line:

  1. Democratizing Solar: Crowdfunding and Community Solar
  2. Standardization and Securitization: Financing Tomorrow's Solar Assets
  3. Reducing Financing Costs Through Risk Mitigation 

Reinvigorating the Utility Market

Of the 4.4 gigawatts of PV that will be installed in the U.S. in 2013, we expect 2.4 gigawatts to come from the utility market alone. Still, project developers have found it difficult to build new pipeline as utility procurement has slowed down and near-term RPS requirements have been fulfilled. Less well recognized, though, is the fact that solar is dangerously close to pure cost-competitiveness and inclusion in utility resource plans independent of policy. We designed two sessions to make sense of how this dynamic will unfold, and what might accelerate it:

  1. Spurring the Next Wave of Utility Solar Deployment
  2. Optimizing the Cost and Operation of Utility PV Plants

Needless to say, in addition to our team’s enthusiasm about escaping the East Coast cold in December for the sunnier climate of San Diego, we’re excited to join with our speakers, sponsors and attendees to decode the U.S. solar market’s future. I hope to see you all there.

Network with leaders from over 100 different companies in the renewable space. To view the full agenda and speaker list, checkout the event website.