Greentech Media’s 6th annual Solar Summit is less than two weeks away, and it’s shaping up to be our biggest yet. The agenda is full, with more than 90 world-class speakers on topics ranging from technology (modules, inverters, balance of systems components, and more) to markets (the U.S., China, Latin America, and more). We’ll spend hours dissecting today’s global solar market and predicting tomorrow’s dynamics in great, and sometimes excruciating, detail.
But before we dive into the details, we’ll take a step back and ask the biggest question in the solar industry: How, and when, will the solar market progress beyond incentives? Some projects in the U.S. are already being built without any state- or utility-level incentives. In California, some residential installers are foregoing rebates, while utility-scale project developers are signing PPAs well into fossil fuel pricing territory.
Meanwhile, markets such as Italy have reached so-called “grid parity” but are yet to see demand respond. This transition, while exciting, will not proceed smoothly. Net metering caps, interconnection restrictions, changing rate structures, financing bottlenecks, and the natural gas boom all loom as roadblocks along the path.
These are the issues we will be discussing during the Solar Summit session titled “The Transition to a Post-Subsidy Reality” on April 23. Joining the discussion will be four panelists from different walks of solar life:
- Gregory Bernosky, Manager, Renewable Energy Program, Arizona Public Service (APS)
- Edward Fenster, co-CEO, Sunrun
- Albie Fong, Key Accounts Executive, Talesun Solar
- Nat Kreamer, Chief Executive Officer, Clean Power Finance
Some of the topics we’ll be discussing:
The Basic Question: Are we actually heading toward a post-subsidy reality in the U.S.? Are companies already thinking about the post-ITC world, or is it too far in the future? How should we be thinking about the long-term need for deployment of solar vs. technology innovation?
Defining Terms: Let’s define “subsidies” -- should net metering be considered in this category? How about accelerated depreciation? Which subsidies should be perpetual, and which are designed to disappear?
Understanding Demand Growth: What are the right benchmarks to be thinking about in terms of whether PV is feasible in a post-subsidy world? In other words, how would you approximate the “tipping point” for solar demand? Does solar just need to compete with grid electricity (or fossil fuel generation), or does it need to become significantly cheaper?
The Transition: How should we be thinking about the transition away from incentives? Will it be smooth or rocky? Will demand build slowly or explode over a short period of time? Should we be planning for a market downturn in 2017 if the ITC is not extended?
The Role of Utilities: What role do utilities have to play in this transition? Will they prove to be an adversary, fighting solar through net metering, interconnection and rate design? Or will they ultimately embrace, and take part in, the coming solar boom? Is distributed solar truly an existential threat to the utility business model?
Bottlenecks: Looking beyond utilities, what barriers are looming in the solar market? Will project finance prove to be the long-term bottleneck, or will new financing channels such as MLPs and REITs open the floodgates of cheaper capital? At what point will intermittent generation become a real issue for grid stability, and will solutions like energy storage be ready to step in?
Have a question to ask? Let us know in the comments section below, and we'll pose it to the panelists at the show.
Greentech Media's 6th annual Solar Summit will be held from April 22-24 in Phoenix, Arizona. For more information, click here.
Update: Watch Shayle Kann moderate the discussion on "The Transition to a Post-Subsidy Reality" at Solar Summit: