10 Solar Hopes For 2019

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by Paula Mints

Ten things to hope for in 2019, and their odds of coming true.

1) Accelerated focus on climate change:
It’s not enough to talk climate change, or promise action – action must be taken and though it will take lifestyle changes now, and will have an economic impact now, the cost of attempting to survive climate change is higher. Make no mistake, it’s survival, not reversal.

Odds: Low – when the bill for change comes due even true believers will balk, when a change in behavior is required, most find this difficult, and when the entrenched technology or industry feels pressure it fights back.

2) Net metering laws/incentives globally to encourage residential and small commercial PV:
Slowly developing as energy independence (primarily due to the promise of storage) becomes more enticing.

Odds: High – energy independence and controlling costs hits home with electricity consumers and they are willing to be vocal and vote for it.

3) Virtual net metering laws/incentives globally to encourage community solar and microgrids:
In the US, a real trend as governments see a way to offer solar participation for all their citizens – even for renters and those with inappropriate roofs.

Odds: Moderate – community solar is still basically a US thing. The concept is based on microgrids and their deployment in the developing world. The concepts will require nurturing.

4) Accelerated and creative planning for the electricity distribution infrastructure of the future:
Globally the utility model is a dinosaur and you know what happened to them. To truly get to 100% RE an entirely new electricity (energy, heat too!) infra-structure will have to be developed perhaps expanding on the block chain philosophy.
Odds: Low – there is little political will and utility pushback is significant. Ratepayer complacency doesn’t help.

5) Common goals and lobbying by all renewable technologies (all for one, one for all):
There is strength in numbers – this cliché, and Warrior basketball team philosophy, is popular for a reason. Globally the renewable energy industry is larger than the individual industries that make it up, and there are enough common interests to bind them together. As a voting bloc, RE as one voice would be hard to shout down.
Odds: Low – people just do not work and play together well when their interest diverge even a little bit.

6) Reasonable bidding on solar projects:
The race to the lowest bid and use it to establish the value of solar generated electricity undervalues it. Auctions are popular with governments as they, typically, want to save money. Solar participants bid low to win and figure out how to make it work later. To alter this trend at this juncture would be difficult if not impossible. Better yet, take away all support for conventional energy and use it to subsidize RE.

Odds: Low – the solar industry has trained the world to believe it is cheaper than it really is, that solar modules are commodities, and that a low price is progress.

7) Better margins for solar manufacturers:
China’s manufacturers dominate the global solar industry and their margin expectations are low. Constrained margins threaten future R&D and quality control.

Odds: Zero – the industry set the expectation for low prices and observers, governments and users have accepted them. The industry cele-brated the low prices as progress, commoditized it’s high tech product and is now, basically, stuck.

8) Fewer solar announcements and more solar news:
Most solar news is really solar PR with a bit of editorial comment. Real news is the who, what, where, why, and how of things and is independent, objective, and sourced. More of that please in 2019.

Odds: Low – the appetite is for the PR, and if solar news organizations focused on real news they would publish once a week and not several times a day.

9) Increased solar cell R&D spending and government support of research labs globally:
To people who believe that solar cell research is no longer necessary, a ques-tion: Where do you think progress comes from? Research is a slow, iterative process and scientists and engineers work for decades to advance solar cell science. That 1% absolute increase in efficiency? Decades in the lab, pilot scale, and demonstration. Perovskites – if the technology is commercialized it will be because of decades of dedication to research. Solar cell research is imperative for the industry’s future. Without continued crystalline wafer and cell research as well as thin film research, the industry stands still. What a shame, a loss, that would be.

Odds: Low – industry participants mistake announcements for facts and misunderstand module assembly advancements, including adding more cells to modules, as all the core science that is needed.

10) Long term Government commitment to installing renewables with incentives, subsidies and mandates:
Number 10 relates to climate change – 30 years ago NASA scientists warned of the dire outcomes the world is experiencing now. Human behavior changes when the new behavior is rewarded, and the old behavior is penalized. Be-havior is very hard to change. Conventional energy is entrenched and will not give up its place easily. Finally, for some reason, climate change remains a subject of debate to many.

Odds: Moderate – the effects of climate change are clear to most. And for every UK cancellation of subsidies, Australian support of coal, and Trump Administration reversal of climate change rules other countries, US states, and regions within countries step up. The climate will be a primary subject from now on in elections around the world. The point is that election by election things will change … hopefully in time.

Paula Mints is founder of SPV Market Research, a classic solar market research practice focused on gathering data through primary research and providing analyses of the global solar industry.  You can find her on Twitter @PaulaMints1 and read her blog here
This article was written for SPV Reaserch’s monthly newsletter, the Solar Flare, and is republished with permission.

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