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Interview: Sue Kateley, Executive Director, CALSEIA

CALSEIA’s mission is to expand the use of all solar technologies in California and establish a sustainable industry for a clean energy future. CALSEIA’s biggest challenges for 2009 and 2010 is to expand the market for PV, notably in the untapped distributed generation market and to expand the market for distributed solar thermal for commercial and residential water, heat, cooling, and industrial processes.

By Sue Kateley, Edwin Koot, Solarplaza

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Print June 24, 2009, 20:25 (CEST)
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Interview: Sue Kateley, Executive Director, CALSEIA

What is the strategy of your organization and what is your biggest challenge for 2009 and 2010?

CALSEIA’s mission is to expand the use of all solar technologies in California and establish a sustainable industry for a clean energy future. CALSEIA’s biggest challenges for 2009 and 2010 is to expand the market for PV, notably in the untapped distributed generation market and to expand the market for distributed solar thermal for commercial and residential water, heat, cooling, and industrial processes.

Do you expect the market volume of new installed PV power in California in 2009 to grow compared to 2008? What are your estimates for 2009 and 2010 in MWp per year?

We don’t make these kinds of estimates.

Which PV market segment (residential, commercial, utility) will perform best in 2009 and 2010 to your opinion?

I hope that all market segments perform well. And I hope that we get going on solar thermal this year too. All of the markets are poised to improve. As our financial markets recover and our economy gets moving again we should see an uptick in residential and commercial sales and installations. The distributed solar utility segment is a new market segment – I think most of the activity is scheduled to occur in 2010. Southern California Edison’s new program was approved by the State Public Utilities Commission yesterday, which will create 250MW of utility-owned solar generation and 250MW of privately developed solar generation.

What system price development do you expect to see for this and next year?

I think the industry’s challenge on price is complicated and certainly this industry has made great strides to reduce costs at all levels (components, installation, etc.) – particularly impressive to accomplish while other industries are raising prices. On one hand, the industry is expected to lower its installed cost ($/kWh or $/therm) to be competitive with traditional energy deliveries. However, the manner that we calculate the future cost of energy deliveries is not straightforward, where customers pay separate fees for energy and transmission/delivery (T&D). Solar technologies have energy, T&D, local emission reductions, climate change, and environmental values that are frequently not counted in the equation when estimating solar energy costs.

Will thin-film technology see a break through in 2009 or 2010 in residential or commercial applications in California?

Demand for all of the solar technologies in California appears ready to grow to greater levels, particularly in light of announcements from our utilities to procure solar energy generation (500 MW each: Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison and 77 MW in San Diego Gas and Electric. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has also announced an aggressive program to increase renewable generation). I suspect that we will see more of all of the various solar technologies deployed in California.

It was written that California's government risks a financial "meltdown" soon. Do you believe that financial incentives for solar will be secured?

California’s state incentive program in the retail energy market is through a ratepayer subsidy. The market for utility scale solar is driven by several factors: the need to meet renewable energy procurement targets, greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and a genuine effort by the utilities to procure more renewable generation. It is not part of the State budget process. We see the economic activity and jobs for in-state solar projects as part of the State and local government budget solutions.

What is needed now to spur market growth in California?

I think the biggest issue we have facing us in California is a need to bring the policymakers together to ensure that the policies they adopt and enforce are synchronized. I think our permitting challenges are well described in many venues: we have significant and costly permitting barriers. Some are difficult to comprehend; one county has a proposed ordinance to require solar equipment be painted a camouflage color. Within homeowner’s associations, they come up with all kinds of unusual requirements or simply attempt to ban the installations altogether. These kinds of things can raise the cost of solar so high that it can’t be built at all, just the opposite of what the California is trying to accomplish.

Where will your organization be in 5 years time?

CALSEIA will be advocating for high-quality, long-lasting, solar products installed by professionals with the highest ethical standards. These principles will ensure a growing market for solar products that deliver clean, reliable solar energy to its customers.

Thank you for the interview!

Sue will be one of the experts speaking at The Solar Future in California conference on 14 July 2009.

More information and registration for The Solar Future in California Conference: www.solarenergymarketcalifornia.com

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