More than stars in the sky and holiday jingles, within this holiday season, we may be seeing the machinery to begin tackling climate change in earnest. The promises of a revamped domestic energy policy, enhancement of our economic tools, and a renewed spirit of international cooperation are bringing good tidings and good fortunes to the new year.
In the spirit of the holiday season, we bring you, in 3 parts, the 12 days of Christmas from the solar perspective. If there is space under the tree, and many of these things are packaged and delivered, we will be in for a wild ride next year.
A number of possible policies could reshape the energy landscape, greatly expanding the breadth and depth of the potential market. This would attract more customers and more different types of customers to the table.
While the value proposition of solar continues to stand across the country and across market segments, the sunsetting of the ITC will jeopardize momentum in key markets and market segments. Amidst the negotiations for a stimulus bill includes talk of an extension of the ITC. The extension will send a signal to developers, capital markets, homeowners and commercial property owners alike that there is time to plan for projects with enough certainty that ensures a composed approach and successful outcome.
The new administration’s approach to the global solar material supply chain will unfold within the first 100 days. While the solar industry has adjusted to the imposition of tariffs over the last 4 years, it has diverted needed energy from the industry’s ability to innovate, streamline, and focus on lowering core costs.
We are just beginning to experience cost declines and production ramping of storage technology. Early entrants into the market have already been surprised with a COVID bump in demand and have been caught flat footed. Consumers have spoken and there is a demand for storage. A clear policy to offer an ITC for storage technologies, regardless of the integration of solar will attract a new level of demand for storage systems. The success of the ITC for solar is likely to be repeated for storage.
The conversation to introduce carbon based pricing into the power markets is heating up. The tension between the FERC’s ability to regulate markets and individual state’s efforts is palpable. The promise of a carbon based pricing strategy could prove to add a true market structure to the integration of emission free electricity. Solar would move one step closer to an integrated market element.
A highlight of FERC’s activity is the Rule 2222, which allows Distributed Energy Resources to participate in the wholesale energy market. New forms of participation are emerging, whereby distributed resources, like a community of homeowners with solar could come together and compete in the wholesale market. Although it will require innovative business models, it affords an opportunity for customers to find new value in their commitment to solar.
Leadership in climate response is galvanizing at the municipal levels, as seen in the proliferation of municipal climate action plans. Indeed, more than 125 cities of various sizes have committed to transition their communities to 100% clean energy. This sends strong signals to corporate actors, and citizens alike, but will rely on legislation and policies to support market solutions to achieve the goals. In places like Boulder, Austin, Los Angeles, and New York, aggressive goals are finally being vocalized. First step is to say it, now we need to give it some teeth.
Technology will continue to play a role in the expansion of the clean energy market. Core technologies continue to improve and new technologies will open up all together new terrain.
Innovation is not stopping. Many of the module manufacturers are making strategic changes to their module form factor to create substantial jumps in power output. Pricing looks to be holding, but higher wattage modules mean lower cost Balance of Systems, delivering direct value to consumers.
Electric vehicle companies have rallied into a new position. The number of EV manufacturers, the number of EV models and innovative transportation management technologies indicate aggressive investment in a rapid transformation of the transportation economy. The electricity load will jump disproportionately. A new distributed fueling network will be powered by distributed solar networks.
The market alone will not solve the problems of the next 10 years. Serious efforts are on the table to increase federal funding for clean technology Research and Development, including Biden’s $400 billion plan. While we need deployment now, we also need to stay ahead of the train, looking towards grid modernization, transactive energy and deep penetrations of renewables.
Renewables have arrived but have left major groups of our society on the sidelines. We are poised to build a bigger tent and spread the values more broadly.
The growth of Community Solar will see new dimensions as access to Virtual Net Metering expands. For folks who do not have access to direct ownership of solar or suitable sites, new forms of community solar offerings can address the gap. This includes providing stronger offerings to lower income communities. The effects of COVID make this more impactful as the disparities in our society are made more and more obvious.
To do this work, we need an enhanced workforce, one that originates in our communities and represents our communities. Distributed solar puts customers and the service providers in a close relationship with one another. This is a new form of the experience economy, where technology helps craft the type of experience the consumer and the provider can have.
Above is a short list of what 2021 can bring. Even if just a few of these things arrive, next year stands to be a blockbuster year. There will be more customers with more wants and higher expectations.
What’s in the stocking to help a solar company grow gracefully in this welcome but challenging new environment?
If you're interested in learning more about delivering amazing customer experiences without having to hire an entire customer support team, contact us.