Post by Deb Perry
Earlier this month, we announced that we are now the Network Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Market Pathways program. Over the next three years, ISC will be working with 14 organizations and partnerships across the country to develop plans and strategies to drive down “soft costs” and transform the solar market in the US.
Solar Market Pathways (SMP) is part of the SunShot Initiative, a nationwide effort to make solar cost-competitive with other forms of energy and to increase solar from less than 0.05% of the current electricity supply to roughly 14% by 2030 and 27% by 2050.
I’m thrilled to be serving as the Program Director for this exciting new endeavor. In many ways, it feels like I’m returning to the roots of my career in sustainability. I started working in the solar industry in Boston in 2001. Since then – in part due to the SunShot Initiative – the price of solar electricity has dropped dramatically. Not shockingly, as the costs have decreased, the amount of solar deployed has risen dramatically. In 2014, 36% of all new electric capacity came from solar installations.
We can all be thankful that there were intrepid early adopters! From 2001-2004, I worked on a program that offered incentives for the installation of solar panels. I worked with homeowners who were passionate about reducing their environment impact, passionate about energy conservation, and some who were just passionate about technology and wanted to support the amazing feat of engineering that would enable the sun’s rays to power their home. These early adopters helped us prove the technology worked, prove that they could withstand the snow and ice of New England winters, and demonstrate that installing solar panels would actually add value to your house.
Today, we sit at a very different point on the transformational curve. The installation price has dropped to an all-time low of $2.71 per watt – a 63% drop in installation price from 2010. Solar is making a more significant contribution to our national energy portfolio everyday. In sunny places with high electric rates like California, solar is nearly (if not already) cost-competitive with nonrenewable, greenhouse gas emitting, energy sources.
As the SMP National Coordinator, ISC will help support 14 projects that will be taking on some of the most significant challenges to deploying more solar power. We’ll be working with the Center for Sustainable Energy who will create new models for deploying solar on multi-family housing, Extensible Energy and the Sacramento Municipal Utility Department to create models for utility-driven community solar, and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, which has created the Solar Endowment as a model to spur more solar installations in US colleges and universities. Working closely with these organizations and many others, we’ll identify strategies and solutions that work and can be disseminated and replicated widely throughout the US.
The Department of Energy has invested $14 million in the Solar Market Pathways initiative and tasked us with identifying new models, strategies and deployment plans that can truly transform the market and reduce the long-standing barriers that have prevented solar from making a more significant contribution to our energy mix. To accomplish these goals, ISC has partnered with the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Regulatory Assistance Project. Together, we’ll help create a solar market pathways learning network to share what works across the 14 projects, we’ll distill best practices and lead a systematic replication strategy. For those of you who are working on creating more renewable energy opportunities in your own communities, we hope you’ll tune in and follow this important work and please get in touch if you’d like more details!