What a difference a few years can make: In 2008 there were 22 megawatts of utility-scale solar photovoltaic generating capacity in the U.S., today that number has jumped to more than 8,100 MW—and more is on the way.
There are a number of reasons behind this growth—including significant declines in PV module prices and the long-term enactment in 2006 of an investment tax credit for solar installations—but perhaps most important was the financing push provided by the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office. Yes, that is the same office bashed repeatedly by Republicans in Congress and the conservative media for gross mismanagement and “crony capitalism” (whatever that really means).
But the reality is, the loan office works, and works well.
Continue reading DOE Loan Office
Played Pivotal Role
Launching Utility PV
Attitude is everything. In business, when confronted with a new proposal, you essentially have two options, look at the issue and say—`No, we can’t do that, because….’—or—`That’s an interesting idea, let’s take a look.’ In the utility industry, far too often and for far too long, the prevailing attitude has been to just say no. However, if the industry is to survive in something like its current form, that attitude simply has to change—every new idea isn’t by default a good idea, but dismissing all new ideas out of hand is a recipe for disaster.
One utility that has gotten this message is Xcel Energy, the Minneapolis-based company that serves 3.5 million electric customers through four operating companies in eight states, including Minnesota. Long a proponent of renewable energy—Frank Prager, then the company’s vice president of environmental affairs told me in an interview in 2007 that the company’s wind resources were “a beautiful thing”—the company last month outlined a progressive approach to dealing with changing customer expectations, new technologies and tightening environmental standards in a filing with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The filing—titled Upper Midwest Resource Plan, 2016-2030—should be required reading for executives across the industry (a copy can be found here).
Continue reading Xcel’s Can-Do Attitude
A Refreshing Approach
In Utility Industry