Under the slogan "What's Next for Solar Energy in the Mid-Atlantic States? Implications of the Mid-Term Elections for the Region's Solar Future", five keynote and plenary speakers, including New York State Sen. Kevin S. Parker; Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams; New York Assemblywoman Latrice Walker; Richard Kauffman, chairman of Energy & Finance for New York of the Office of New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo; and Ralph Izzo, president and CEO of the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), shared their visons on what is needed to create long-term solar prosperity for the region.
New York State Senator Kevin S. Parker at Intersolar North America 2014
All the experts agreed that the overall access to clean energy should be further improved. The recently launched Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, designed to give all more choice and value in resilient, clean energy in communities and remove market barriers to distributed generation, clearly underlines that solar is a key part of the New York state energy policy. The industry's long-term success is dependent on the competitive value provided by solar in terms of reliability, low price, safety, and minimal environmental impact, Izzo concluded. Making solar more accessible to low-income residents was of particular concern. The panelists reiterated the theme sounded by New York State Sen. Parker in his keynote speech.
"New York sees opportunities, not roadblocks," he said. "New York is about creating success stories and then taking them to another level." The key to success in New York is transforming the current energy patchwork into a comprehensive, connected network, in the same way that an information technology network is created, the panelists added. Building a connected infrastructure will provide a framework of opportunities for new generations.
The subsequent state-level session highlighted incentive structures, opportunities and challenges for solar in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and Massachusetts. While each state faces unique challenges with regulation, several themes emerged. The first is that policy can make or break solar. Bad policy decisions and incentive cliffs, such as the policy changes that contributed to a downturn in New Jersey's solar industry, can affect solar growth over the long-term. Lyle Rawlings, president of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association (MSEIA), noted that a broad-based coalition of environmental, industry, professional, civic and faith-based organizations in New Jersey has formed NJ FREE (New Jersey For Renewable Energy and Efficiency) with the goal of producing 80 percent of New Jersey's energy from renewable sources by 2050. While some may not believe it will be possible to make the transition from fossil fuels to renewables by the end of the first half of the 21st century, the goal is eminently doable, Rawlings said. In order to reach 80 percent by 2050, it will be necessary to install an average of 425 megawatts per year through 2050, which is less than the 463 megawatts installed in New Jersey in 2012 alone.
Within the panel titled "Future Paths for the East Coast Electricity Business", speakers focused on the need for the solar and utility industries to get along, given the fact that electricity is inherently tied to utilities. Certain forward-thinking utilities, such as PSEG, have invested heavily in solar, from solar farms to installing panels on utility poles. With the integration of distributed energy with the electricity grid, the nation will move away from a centralized utility system to adopt "the sharing utility," which features collaborative consumption and introduces a middle ground between ownership and shared resources, the panelists predicted.
Another highlight of the day was the expert panel on energy storage, where speakers discussed current issues impacting the industry, such as cost structures and available financing mechanisms to assist the growth of this market. The need for storage is evident as distributed generation captures a larger market share, the panelists noted. In particular, they talked about the benefit of storage in helping to address peak demand. However, the consensus was that the nascent storage industry still faces many hurdles.
The day was topped off by the exclusive networking reception "Solar Futures" hosted by state Sen. Parker at the historic Brooklyn Borough Hall, where delegates took advantage of high-level networking and reflected on the conference findings.
After the successful Intersolar Summit, Intersolar will host North America's most-attended solar event in San Francisco this July. Intersolar North America offers the ideal platform for all stakeholders in the rapidly growing solar and energy storage market. The new special exhibition, ees™ (electrical energy storage), will debut at this year's Intersolar North America from July 14 to 16 to extend the event's focus on the latest technologies and policies in the energy storage value chain. Fifty out of the 550 exhibitors at Intersolar North America will showcase their storage solutions in this special exhibition, the hotspot for companies with stationary and mobile electrical energy storage solutions. The conference and expo program contains more than 80 conference sessions, technical trainings, workshops and networking events! For more information please visit www.intersolar.us
Photo Sorce: Intersolar North America