13 May 2009


Interview: David Rubin Chairman Board of Directors Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and Director at PG&E

The decrease in PV prices currently being witnessed, both on products and performance contracts, is welcome news to potential U.S. utility buyers," said David Rubin, Board Chairman of the Solar Electric Power Association. "And increased utility interest in solar is important to the PV industry, especially at this time when the global economic situation is impacting the growth of commercial and residential solar markets."

Compared with 2008, do you expect growth in the global market volume of newly installed PV power in 2009?

Over 2 GW of new utility-driven PV projects were announced in the United States. Not all of these projects will ultimately be installed, but the U.S. utility-driven market is emerging as an important new opportunity for global manufacturers.

What will be the goals of PG&E in 2009?

PG&E will continue to promote solar development through a number of different avenues, including:


  • Customer-side installations through the California Solar Initiative;
  • Feed-in Tariff (for small projects);
  • Aggressive contracting with developers of utility-scale projects 
  • Anticipated approval and implementation of our proposed 500 MW solar PV ownership and PPA program
  • Pursuit of new opportunities that could benefit our customers and shareholders
  • Installation of Smart Meters, and analyzing impacts of distributed generation on the grid.


Where and when do you expect to see grid parity first?

In the United States, Hawaii and California have a combination of high solar resource and higher than average wholesale and retail rates, along with long-maturing solar markets through continued and sustained programmatic efforts on the part of state government, utilities, and other stakeholders.

What are the major threats to the solar industry at the moment?

Clearly the global economic conditions, and limited availability of financing, are hitting at exactly the wrong time for the solar industry and investors concerned about profit margins and oversupply. But the drop in prices, both on products and performance contracts, is welcome news to buyers with existing or recovering access to capital and to advocates and policymakers who have provided incentive funding to jump start the industry. The emergence of utility driven projects in the United States can potentially provide large, long-term demand for the solar industry, while the commercial sector recovers - gap projects if you will.

What will be your response to companies claiming to sell (thin-film) modules at $ 1/Wp next year?

Please respond aggressively (but thoroughly and thoughtfully) to utility renewable and solar RFPs for new projects!

What will become the dominating PV technology in the next 5 years?

Utilities are generally technology agnostic, balancing cost, performance and business risk among bidders.

What do you see as the major drivers for solar energy in the coming decade?

Climate change, increasing electricity costs, declining solar costs, and the green wave of consumer interest as these forces converge.

What do you expect to learn at The Solar Future conference?

Gain additional insights into market dynamics of solar (including global supply/demand), and exploring new opportunities for utilities.

How will the solar industry look in 5 years from now? And the position of your company?

I hope the solar industry is larger and can offer installations and products at significantly lower prices. The growth of the wind industry is a possible model to follow but PV has a few tricks up its sleeve that are missing from wind:

  • Scalability - watts to gigawatts and everything in between 
  • Ownership - Solar offers energy democratization and can be owned and used by utilities, consumers, and developers. 
  • Siting - Roof or ground; urban or rural; utility, customer, or developer sited 
  • Demand Reduction - There is some debate about how much PV performance correlates with demand reduction, and how to integrate that into electricity markets, but the relationship is clearly positive. 

David will be one of the experts speaking at The Solar Future conference.

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