2017, a new year for solar. As 2016 saw solar records smashed, the excitement continues with 2017’s dawn. Solar’s growth has been unprecedented in recent years, and with growth comes more challenges and goals. In order to sustain a shining growth for 2017 and beyond, we must be willing to embrace industry challenges as well as surpassing market goals. Challenges that come at the federal level, the state level, and the customer/workforce level–we must brighten each day with solar’s great reward–clean, sustainable, bankable energy.
Goal #1: The Federal Level
With the election of Donald Trump as President, solar (and renewables as a whole) seem as if they will take a backseat to Trump’s claim to revitalize the coal industry. Not so fast claim many industry experts, although Trump, Rex Tillerson (secretary of State), and Rick Perry’s (Department of Energy, secretary) solar endorsements can go a long way. Perry vows to advocate solar and renewables, yet it remains to be seen how he reacts to opponent’s demands for DoE budget cuts. The challenge to inform Trump, Tillerson, and Perry of solar’s massive benefits will likely be long struggle, yet a goal within reach. Trump recently selected solar pioneer Elon Musk as a member of his business advisory team, and solar advocates everywhere are rooting for Trump to heed the warm words of Musk. Musk is the hot ticket item now, as his Tesla and Solar City market branding have solar more than just a household word now. Solar, in part to Musk, is the buzz.
One of the great federal policies that solar benefits is the federal income tax credit (ITC). In 2015, the government extended the ITC to 2023. However, the numbers go down each year for residential and commercial applications. Many believe that the Trump administration will amend the ITC, lessening the benefits for solar customers. Keeping the ITC intact until 2023 is a worthy challenge that we must fight to keep. Perhaps as even more become knowledgeable about solar’s benefits, the ITC will be extended. Many have worked hard to defend the ITC’s implementation, and more must become aware of its value in order to defend its future course. Read more about the ITC in my blog here.
“We feel very strongly that the investment tax credit that we gained in 2015 needs to remain in place.”
–Abby Hopper, President, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)
Goal #2: The State Level
Perhaps the biggest challenge for state level solar is education. Education is a continuous goal in many industries and markets, and Florida solar is no different. Rules and policies are constantly changing in solar, and a few topics must be addressed in order to shine bright on such goals. According to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), state priorities may be as follows:
Access to net metering and best practice rate design for distributed generation customers.
Inclusion of solar heating and cooling (SHC) to in state Renewable Portfolio Standards(“RPSs”)
Reduce soft costs – promote best practice interconnection and model permitting rules.
Maintain and improve cost-effective incentive programs, including tax credits/exemptions, rebates, and performance-based incentives.
Maintain and expand renewable portfolio standards or their equivalents, specifically DG and solar carve outs. Pursue recognition for solar’s capacity value and other grid/market benefit.
Increase investment vehicles and reduce risk- encourage long term financing and contracts for renewables; promote third party financing and power purchase agreements (between customers/developers and developers/utilities).
Florida is considered a solar “action” state by SEIA. With positive growth and a focus on policy education, Florida solar goals shall be eventually smashed. Check out Florida’s solar facts and policies here.
Goal #3: Customer/Workforce Level
One of solar’s challenges is to be heard by everyone everywhere. Hopper states the desire for solar’s workforce and customer base to “reflect our country’s population…so that we have Americans of all nationalities, of all races and both genders participating in our workforce.” Regarding solar’s workforce and advocacy, diversity programs for minorities have been established, from women to African Americans, to Vets. One of the most influential entities in Florida is the League of Women Voters. The League of Women Voters has partnered with FL SUN and developed co-ops that provide solar for many Floridians–and they are only getting stronger. Regarding customers, the aforementioned co-ops as well as community solar and programs for low to middle-income families will help drive solar goals upward. Solar is bankable for everyone; more bankable than current utility bills in most cases, and everyone should have the option (or power, as we say) to choose their own power. The idea that solar is only for the wealthy is not only horrible misinformation distributed by the big utilities and the uniformed–it’s an outright lie. And we as Floridians will fight against that solar lie.
Yes, Floridians, it’s time to give the power back to the people. Your power. The challenges and goals are ahead of us. From federal policies to state initiatives to a diverse workforce and customer base, Florida, we can do it. And we will. We are, after all, the “Sunshine State,” and for 2017, together we will shine brighter than before!
Need more information on going green and ready to take the next step? We are here for you at Bay Area Solar Solutions LLC, where your solar needs come first!