Wednesday, June 23, 2010


IEEE Solar Conference

Henry Curtis

The highlight of Day 2 at the IEEE Solar Conference was a panel discussion by three high-spitited and dynamic speakers

Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)

Chris Cook, Board Member of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council

Kris Mayes, Chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission

All three speakers discussed grid parity, that point where the cost of on-site generation will equal the cost of grid electricity. They believe that this point will occur in the next 5-10 years

Rhone Resch noted that Hawaii was sixth in solar installations installed in 2009 (14 MW) and eighth in total installed capacity (27 MW). Solar, while still only a small player, is growing tremendously and will became a dominant player in a few years. Nationally there is 85MW of installed solar, another 67MW under construction and 6,470MW under development. Most Americans (92%) favor the increased use of solar.

Chris Cook has solar industry, government regulatory and utility experience. He was formerly Sr. Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs and New Markets for SunEdison; assistant counsel with the utility consumer advocate in Maryland; and a distribution engineer with the Virginia Power Company. He stressed that utilities are extremely risk adverse and are usually the absolute last entity to adopt a new policy, often coming aboard long after the early adopters have gone into other ventures.

Kris Mayes stated that when grid parity occurs groups of customers will begin to leave the grid. The utility will need to raise rates to cover their fix and stranded costs. This will drive more customers away from the utility. In order to deal with this natural cascading loss of customers, utilities must start now in planning their shift from top-down entities to end-user service providers. Failure to make this transition will lead to their demise. Kris Mayes is an elected commissioner who has served since 2003. She asserted that utilities will be required to become more decentralized, customer-service oriented. Control over provisioning of energy is moving into the hands of consumers. Increased importance of Renewables, Energy Efficiency and Demand Response adds new stakeholders and variables for Regulators.


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