30-Fold Increase in Solar Power Possible by 2016, If Solar Industry and Utilities Collaborate to Make it Happen

photo: Schwarzer Kater

One of the renewable energy policy developments to come out of Solar Power International comes in the form of the Solar Electric Power Association laying down a gauntlet in front of US electric utilities. The industry trade group has outlined four policy guidelines which it says will allow the nation to "see an increase in solar capacity of more than thirty fold between 2009 and 2016. This is approximately three times the estimated amount of generation predicted to come online as a result of existing renewable portfolio standards and policies in states with existing solar carve outs."

The specific recommendations to achieve this goal are as follows:
Utility Ownership of Solar Power Projects

The utility and solar industries must collaborate to find program structures, such as utility ownership of distributed photovoltaics, that provide a winning scenario for both industries, as well as for customers at large. The solar industry can utilize this new market segment as a buffer until home and small business owners are back on more solid economic footing.

Increased Utility Engagement in Solar Markets
The utility and solar industries must work together to get more utilities engaged, starting by increasing the solar knowledge base of utility employees, from top executives down to distribution engineers. We must move beyond having ninety seven percent of all grid-connected solar installations in just 10 utilities' service territories.

Greased Wheels
The utility and solar industries must work in partnership with regulators and investors to push for approval and funding of new transmission projects and the development of smart grid configurations to expedite the timeframe in which new utility-scale and distributed solar projects can come on line and provide maximum value.

Development of Innovative Approaches
By working in collaboration, the utility and solar industries can make great strides towards modernizing today's electricity infrastructure and offering customers affordable and clean power. But the status quo will not achieve the necessary results. We need bold new ideas developed in tandem for the mutual benefit of both industries, and society at large.

SEPA says that this level of increased solar power deployment would lead to 440,000 permanent jobs, and over $230 billion in investment and associated economic benefits.

More at: Solar Electric Power Association
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