By Daniel Maysick
July 8, 2009
Legislation and incentives are what has buffered solar energy production from the fates of so many other industries recently. Massive amounts of stimulus money have been appropriated for renewable energy and should be making its way into the market soon. In addition to providing more money, the industry is lobbying for legislation requiring greater amounts of future energy supplies to be met through solar power.
Kate Galbraith writes in a NY Times blog about the industries effort to gain a larger solar carve out.
"The industry is lobbying hard for a 'solar carve-out' in the policy, which would require a certain amount of those renewables to come from solar. Already about a dozen states (Delaware, for example) have this kind of carve-out in their state-level renewable standard policies.
'The solar industry hopes for this carve-out because despite increased efficiencies, solar energy is still expensive compared with other forms of renewable energy. Producing power from photovoltaic panels can cost three times as much as producing electricity from the wind.'
The industry got an enormous boost from provisions in last year's bailout bill and also this year's stimulus package, which contained 19 different provisions for aiding solar power. Solar developers and manufacturers were hoping that Congress would soon pass more policies to help the industry."
Recently much attention has been garnered by the narrow passage of the Waxman-Markley energy bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is filled with many ambitions and is a promising start to changing the energy needs of America. However, not all areas are equally supported. Solar energy in particular was jilted in the bill.
Renewableenergyworld.com offers some information regarding recent efforts to gain solar acceptance.
"Focusing entirely on the inputs overlooks the value of the results. For example, solar energy production during day-time hours can substantially supplement night-time wind generation. Or solar generation during the day meets peak demand. In addition, the solar energy industry provides immense economic and job creation benefits of both distributed and central station solar. Solar panels installed on rooftops and within the distribution grid also avoids costly investment in transmission and distribution system expansion and upgrades. And solar is the most abundant free source of energy available and the cost for both distributed and central-station solar generation is expected to drop significantly with higher levels of deployment. If we are serious about weaning our nation off fossil fuels and creating a stronger, more secure new energy economy, diversification of renewables will be crucial to maintaining a reliable electricity supply.
'The Solar Energy Industries Association spent the last six months urging Congress to add solar specific provisions to the draft RES bills, namely a distributed generation carve-out to support rooftop solar, inclusion of solar hot water among the qualifying technologies and accommodations for utility-scale solar. The solar set-aside is a policy mechanism in use today in fifteen states, and one that has proven effective in kick-starting robust new solar markets.
Instead, a 'REC multiplier' for distributed generation is emerging as the favored solar mechanism in the federal bills under consideration. With a three times multiplier, one megawatt hour of distributed solar would be treated as three megawatts of wind, biomass, geothermal or hydro in the REC market. If past experience at the state level proves anything (think Arizona and New Mexico), the multiplier will do little to encourage distributed solar as there's still little incentive to invest in the early-market, higher-cost energy option. Without a direct carve out to encourage this initial investment in distributed solar, it will take much longer to realize the economies of scale cost reductions projected for this valuable energy resource.
In the meantime states are filling in the gaps and enacting their own quotas for renewable energy. The continued implementation of incentives and legislation requiring so much energy will keep the solar marketplace alive and primed for breakout success."