The global solar market has reached heights only dimly imaginable a decade ago, but has much progress to make before it is an integral part of the world's energy system, according to the participants in Bloomberg New Energy Finance's first Solar Leadership Forum.
The forum brought together 50 senior decision-makers in Napa, Calif., as part of Bloomberg New Energy Finance's series of exclusive gatherings for industry thought leaders in clean energy and the carbon markets. The group debated the future for the solar sector, looking three to five years out and further.
Key findings of the Solar Leadership Forum include the following:
– The industry still requires market support mechanisms, in the form of public policy and financial incentives, in order to maintain current growth rates. However, all of the participants agreed that excessively generous incentives are a thing of the past, and are, in fact, not desired by most in the market. Stability, not generosity, is paramount for solar industry support mechanisms.
– Technological innovation is essential to ensure further sector growth and energy market penetration, and it is also inevitable, as innovation is hard-wired into the solar sector's core processes. Market participants are relentlessly pursuing improvements and refinements at the device, project and system level, and will continue to do so in response to competition and declining levels of incentive.
– No single technology or business model has emerged to dominate the global market, nor is one likely to. The photovoltaic and solar thermal electricity generation markets will support many different technologies, as their characteristics fit different applications, although some technologies will fare much better than others. A point repeatedly made was that static business approaches will not dominate dynamic markets.
‘The challenge for solar is to remain nimble enough to exploit changing markets, while driving relentlessly for cost reductions and device and system improvements,’ says Nathaniel Bullard, lead analyst for solar at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. ‘In addition, the sector needs to work closely with other parts of the power industry to figure out how to push solar further up the electricity merit order in each individual regional market.’
‘Innovation and commercialization are tied together,’ says Bill Gallo, CEO of AREVA Solar. ‘The concentrated solar thermal industry must continue to innovate while we commercialize, deploy and scale our technologies.
‘This will drive us to grid parity, which is more than just the price of electricity,’ he continues. ‘Grid parity is about stability, reliability and the true costs of land, water and emissions. These are among the key factors that will determine our success as an industry and our ability to play a larger role in energy markets around the world."
‘The recent events in the Middle East and Japan have led governments and corporations alike to reassess how to optimize their energy mix,’ adds Gil Forer, global cleantech director at Ernst & Young. ‘Solar will be an increasingly important component of the energy mix at both the national and company levels as distributed generation becomes more attractive and solar costs and operational efficiencies improve through continuous innovation and growing scale of manufacturing.’
The full report is available for download here.