Monthly archives: July 2009

Bringing together members of the US solar industry in Washington, Green Power Conferences have announced that between 9-10 of September the US Solar Forum will give guests the opportunity to discuss the key issues of the moment in the PV industry.

There seems to be a growing support for the argument that grid parity will become a reality within the near future with analysts in the UK suggesting that it could happen as soon as 2013. The Washington Solar forum will give attendees the chance to discuss the ideas of a viable photovoltaic industry and the possibility of solar generated electricity reaching the same price of electricity generated by non-renewable means in the US.

As well as offering a unique networking opportunity for guests, the forum will also see a number of expert, high profile speakers give a number of presentations regarding the future of the solar industry in the United States. Such speakers will include:

• Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. Representative, D-AZ
• Jigar Shah, Founder, Sun Edison, USA
• Julia Hamm, Executive Director, Solar Electric Power Association, USA
• David Arfin, Vice President, SolarCity, USA
• Rainer Aringhoff, President, Solar Millennium, USA
• Matt Cheney, Chief Executive Officer, Renewable Ventures, USA
• Carrie Cullen Hitt, President, The Solar Alliance, USA
• Shawn Kravertz, President, Esplanade Capital, USA
• Nancy E. Pfund, Managing Partner, DBL Investors, USA
• John Woolard, Chief Executive Officer, Brightsource Energy, USA
• John Bartlett, Financial Analyst, U.S. Department of Energy
• Adam Browning, Executive Director, The Vote Solar Initiative, USA
• Jeanne Fox, President, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, USA
• Nancy Hartsoch, Director, CPV Consortium and Vice President, SolFocus, USA
• Kevin Law, Chief Executive Officer, Long Island Power Authority, USA
• Arnold Leitner, Chief Executive Officer, SkyFuel, USA
• Brian Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, PrimeStar Solar, USA
• Mike Nedd, Deputy Director, Bureau of Land Management, USA
• William Nesbitt, Managing Director, Good Energies, USA
• Scott Stephens, Solar Energy Technology Program, U.S. Department of Energy
• Darren Van’t Hof, Vice President, US Bancorp Community Development Corporation
• Sanjay Wagle, Renewable Energy Advisor, Recovery Act Team, U.S. Department of Energy

Jeremy Leggett, head of Solar Century has predicted that solar energy will reach grid parity with energy produced by non-renewable means by 2013, seven years ahead of previous predictions. Speaking at yesterday’s ‘We Support Solar’ event, Leggett announced that with recent support given to the solar industry in the UK through legislation the price paid for solar generated electricity will reach a parity with coal produced electricity.

The concept of Grid Parity has always been the ‘holy grail’ within the solar industry with solar supporters extolling the need for government action in order to ensure that the photovoltaic (PV) industry evolves into a viable competitor to fossil fuel producers. Detractors of the notion of a possible grid parity have traditionally asserted that solar will never compete with fossil fuel energy on price because of the costs associated with installing and maintaining PV plant.

However, the recently passed feed-in tariff legislation which offers solar energy producers a premium rate for energy they feed back in to the national grid will prove to be extremely effective in attracting investment in the solar industry. Speaking about the solar naysayers among the energy industry Jeremy Leggett commented,

“The chief executive of British Petroleum said that solar will never be economically viable without technological breakthroughs. He is going down the road saying that, we say it will be on cost parity with electricity by 2013. We are going to find out who is right.”

Certainly with recent reports from America that two-thirds of the United States will achieve grid parity by 2015, the future seems to be mapping out truly in favour of solar energy on both sides of the Atlantic, a situation which won’t go unnoticed by investors looking for long term investment yields.

Also at the event, Joan Ruddock, acting as spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced that the government would strive to reach its carbon reduction targets through a specific focus on “small-scale renewable technologies, such as solar PV”, going on to add,

“We know that it is not just a case of generating ideas and many of you have pushed for greater incentives, so we are introducing what is going to be called a clean energy cash back, that is much easier for ordinary people to understand than a feed-in tariff for people in these difficult economic times and it will be important to encourage people at this time.”

The New York Time’s headline, ‘Green power takes root in China’ is representative of a dramatic move towards renewable energy which is taking place in China. The giant Asian power has traditionally been known for its use of fossil fuels with a strong media emphasis being given to pollution problems in China’s major cities resulting from coal burning and extensive carbon emissions from vehicles.

Certainly, with the Beijing Olympics of last year, the worlds eyes were focused sharply on the Chinese capital and the seemingly permanent smog covering which acted as a testament to Chinese heavy industry and the proliferation of vehicles in modern China.

However, it is a marked change in Chinese legislation which prompted the New York newspaper to run with the ‘Green power takes root’ line. The change has come in the form of a national renewable energy level stating that utilities must generate 8 percent of their energy by renewable means by 2020. The fact that this 8 percent figure does not include hydroelectric power adds to the importance which the Chinese are now placing on green energy.

The growing awareness of the lack of long-term sustainability in traditional coal energy sources has prompted the Chinese government to take action to maintain China has a major industrial power well in to the future. There has also been somewhat of a frenzy among private companies seeing the opportunities that will undoubtedly present themselves in the Chinese renewable industry, with a growing activity particularly in sectors such as wind and photovoltaic technology which will inevitably boom in China in the near future.

The New York Times was keen to use this Chinese government action to make comparisons with the comparatively weak efforts being made in Washington to spur the renewable sector in the United States. Indeed, in the United Kingdom, with the recent feed-in tariff legislation, members of the green energy industry will be hopeful that government action in the UK will have the same effect it has had on the Chinese market.

The New York Times asserted its almost neurotic view of Chinese renewable growth compared to that of the US by warning,

“You won’t just be buying your toys from China, you’ll be buying your energy future from China.”

China has a target in place to produce 8000 megawatts of energy by wind energy by 2010 which they are set to smash. If China continues apace to move towards green energy, they will surely shame efforts currently being made in the West to develop their own sustainable renewable industries