Interview: Rhone Resch, SEIA

Reg Tucker

Part 2. Reg Tucker continues his conversation with Rhone Resch of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

ON THE cusp of Solar Power International (SPI 2013), Renewable Energy Focus magazine recently caught up with Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the solar energy industry in the United States.

Representing an industry of more than 5,600 companies and 119,000 employees, Resch is the architect of the Association's strategic priorities designed to achieve a 10 GW annual market in the US by 2015, including all Federal and state advocacy on behalf of the industry. In the last 8 years as the President of SEIA, he helped create the 30% investment tax credit, the 1603 Treasury Program, and more than 18 other provisions that have helped grow the industry from 52 MW/year market in 2004 to 3,300 MW in 2012.

See part 1 of the interview here...

REF: State vs. Federal: How can the solar industry create more ‘Californias’ without a clear, uniform federal mandate?

Rhone Resch: The best way to accomplish this is through education, hard work and shoe leather. California's just-completed legislative session shows how well this combination can work. It was the textbook definition of ‘commitment’ to clean energy.

Four significant solar-related Bills were approved by the legislature – and all four are expected to be signed into law by Governor Brown. AB 217 extends funding beyond 2016 for the California Solar Initiative low-income programs, including the Single Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program and Multifamily Affordable Homes (MASH) Program, AB 327, among other things, authorises the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to procure renewable resources beyond the 2020 33-per cent Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) target.

This clarifies that the RPS is a floor, not a ceiling. AB 792 clarifies that all customer-sited Distributed Generation (DG), including 3rd party Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) systems, are exempt from any utility user tax (UUT). And SB 43 requires Investor Owned Utilities (IOU) to collectively procure an additional 600 MW of renewable energy through a voluntary Green Tariff Shared Renewables pilot program, which will allow IOU customers to purchase up to 100 percent of their energy needs from renewables.

California should be congratulated for its smart, forward-looking solar policies, which have already helped to produce nearly 44,000 good-paying solar jobs around the state. SEIA applauds the legislature and Governor Brown for their leadership, commitment to clean energy and commitment to job creation. But we've also had successes this year in many other States, including Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Georgia and Louisiana, to name just a few.

REF: More broadly, what are the targets/predictions, etc., on installations for the remainder of this year? 2014?

RR: Right now, we're projecting a total of 4,400 MW of PV and 900 MW of CSP to come online in 2013, which would result in 57 percent growth year on year in the U.S solar market, putting us well over the 10 GW threshold. Despite a very good first 6 months of this year, the second half of 2013 will be ever stronger, with more than 70 percent of 2013's installed capacity expected to come online in the third and fourth quarter.

We expect growth to continue in 2014, with 5,500 MW of PV and 700 MW of CSP expected to come online.

REF: Are the American people really buying into the idea of solar yet, in light of negative lobbying against clean energy? There seems progress on utility scale developments, but homeowners seem more reluctant to invest in solar in many States. How does the industry change that?

RR: Homeowners reluctant? I don't buy that notion at all. A new market analysis by GTM Research shows: 1) The U.S. residential market grew by 48 percent in the second quarter of this year, compared to the same time period in 2012. 2) Solar is now more affordable than ever. Average PV system prices have declined by more than 40 percent since the beginning of 2011 – and by more than 50 per cent since the beginning of 2010. 3) Average module prices have declined by over 60 per cent since the beginning of 2011. 4) The U.S. PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) markets remain on pace for a record-shattering year in 2013.

Do we have policy challenges at both the State and Federal level? Of course. But we also have a great story to tell – and, most of all, solar offers hope for the future when it comes to our nation's energy security.

Part 3 out tomorrow...

Rhone Resch was talking to Reginald Tucker of Renewable Energy Focus magazine.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity