2018, a look back at sustainable initiatives from 2010

Drake-first-oil-wellWhy Solar Will Make or Break its Own Future

Written by Stephen Lacey who has written about solar for over a decade and featuring Jigah Shah whom is definitely a solar rock star

Why Solar Will Make or Break its Own Future

Originally posted by Stephen Lacey @REW, currently editor in chief of GTM a go to publication on the new energy economy.

Shamelessly reposted on my very obscure blog scsolarguy.blogspot.com and re-reposted on

Why Solar Will Make or Break its Own Future 

Every industry has a rock star. The financial industry has Warren Buffet. The tech industry has Steve Jobs. The oil industry (and now wind industry) has T. Boone Pickens. And the solar PV industry has Jigar Shah.

So what makes someone a rock star in the business world? Well, success is a prerequisite. As the founder of SunEdison, a firm that pioneered the commercial solar power purchase agreement in North America, Shah’s rise in his mid-thirties was one of the first high-profile success stories in the modern solar industry.

But achieving rock-stardom is about much more than being a good businessman. Even Shah (who has never proclaimed himself a star of the solar industry) admits that financial success is only a very small part of industry success – especially in renewables and efficiency.

“You can really make a ton of money in these areas and never make a difference. And that’s really sad,” he says.

He points to the energy efficiency sector where numerous $50 million-a-year businesses have barely made a dent in Americans’ wasteful energy consumption. The same could be said of the solar industry, where a company like thin-film manufacturer First Solar – with revenues of over $2 billion and a market capitalization of $12 billion – is leading a market that represents a tiny fraction of the overall energy mix.

But Shah believes that solar is on a path toward high penetration. He criticizes those who say solar is too expensive, or that we need breakthrough technologies to make any difference. He believes that the positive indicators are staring us in the face, and anyone who doesn’t see them is blind or purposefully ignoring them.

And this brings us to another defining trait of a rockstar: Someone who is able to envision and articulate the future of an industry, even if that vision is not always consistent with conventional wisdom (i.e. solar is too expensive, solar is too intermittent, the technology is not ready).

I had the opportunity to co-host a web conference this week with AltaTerra research about the outlook for the solar industry through 2013. Shah was the featured speaker, and he offered a lot of insight into how this very volatile market will play out over the next few years.

The theme of his talk was “The Solar Industry Controls its Own Destiny.” By this, he means that the pieces are already in place for companies to put massive amounts of solar online. It’s about building strong businesses now, not blaming politicians or the fossil energy industries for setbacks.


Here’s a quick summary of the key points he made:

•The magic number for solar is $2 a watt installed. At that price, 30% of the global electricity supply could be cost-competitively met by solar PV.

• By 2012, the price of a 1 MW crystalline-silicon solar PV system will dip as low as $2.60 a watt installed, putting solar well within the $2 per watt threshold.

• Due to these prices (ranging between $4.60 a watt and $2.40 a watt), existing solar technologies will make a substantive impact today – no third-generation solar technologies needed. Shah believes the incessant focus on “breakthrough” technologies, while important in the long-term, distracts us from the realities of what we can do today.

• We can expect to see about a 35% compound annual growth rate through 2013, with a 65% growth rate in North America, 18% growth in Europe and 68% growth in emerging markets like India, Singapore and China. The industry will put about 20 GW of global capacity online in 2012.

• As solar reaches the $3 per watt installed range and starts to move below that level, utilities are developing solar for reasons other than regulatory pressure. For example, according to a Florida Power and Light executive, solar PV is now cheaper than new coal facilities in that utility’s service territory. In addition, the Georgia PUC reported that a new nuclear facility would raise utility bills in the state by $1.30 a month. But a combination of solar, thermal storage and dynamic load control would have raised rates by only $1 a month.

• Due to fewer regulatory and capital constraints, distributed generation will rule the day. With over 3 billion square feet of flat roofs installed globally each year, around 20 GW of solar could theoretically be accommodated. While centralized generation like CSP will be important, Shah says that the complications associated with permitting and building new transmission lines for mega-projects will slow down growth of that sector.

• The best companies will be all-stars in international finance. As markets shift year by year, understanding how to finance projects across a variety of markets will be critical to success. Companies that are financially nimble and sophisticated will lead in solar.

• Most innovation will take place downstream, not upstream. Shah believes that the low hanging fruit to reduce costs is in the balance-of-systems sector (inverters, power optimization, tracking software, racking, wiring, labor) and in sales and distribution. (If we can create incredibly sophisticated channels for toasters and flat screen televisions, why can’t we do the same for solar?) He also believes that lead generation, sales and installation will be separated.

• Given all these trends, Shah says that solar will reach a 5% penetration in the U.S. by 2020.

• He admits that the policy environment for solar is still sketchy in some markets. But rather than “bitch” about not getting equal support, he says the industry should be telling the fossil energy industries, “we’ll get rid of our tax incentives if you get rid of yours.”

Shah’s main point throughout the presentation was that the industry already has a good business environment to build from – it is no longer about what “they” are going to do to support solar. It’s about what “we” are going to do to grow the industry. Even without the full support of heel dragging politicians and utilities, there’s still plenty of business to be done.



If you cut the power off for a day, it’s a party; blankets, flashlights and huddling around the fire. If you cut the power for 3 days, it’s a slog, grumbling and generally we’re pissed off about how long it’s been. If you cut the power off for 3 weeks there will be blood in the streets. This is what we are dealing with when we talk about energy security. If you think I am exaggerating stop and think about it, in three weeks all your food will have spoiled, so will the grocery stores’, business will be hamstrung and all electronic commerce will have halted. No banks, ATMs, gas pumps, internet, TV the list goes on. I understand the challenges of moving to a renewable energy grid, inconsistent supply, higher perceived cost, more engineering required, more transmission required, it’s tough. What’s tougher is the alternative. This is the greatest society in the history of our planet, American engineers built the 20th century, please don’t tell me we have to leave it to the Chinese to figure out what replaces fossil fuel. It appears to me that the energy policy committee setup by PERC has a difficult road ahead. They are going to talk about economics and DSM and federal loan guaranties and liability costs… or they won’t and they will push for the policy they decided a decade ago based on dated information. American society and brain power are the value of our currency and the definition of our economy. The real expense at stake here is the wrong decision. Let Americans build the 21st century. I would encourage all of you to attend the Oct. 6th meeting at the state house. Email me for details.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sustainability summary of SC companies

This high level over view studies the public stance of some of South Carolina’s major employers. As you will see it was very easy to find information leading to each company’s thoughts and actions on how to achieve profits and growth and still have a sustainable business practice. It is important to recognize that action now will not make South Carolina a leader but will put us somewhat on par with the region and prevent our economy from losing jobs and economic activity because we failed to act on building a 21st century energy economy.

Boeing has implemented aggressive targets for improving its environmental performance both for its operations and the lifecycle of its products. Boeing has a record of commitment to regulatory compliance and a legacy of environmental performance improvements in its products and services. And by learning from and enabling its employees to drive change, Boeing is embedding environmental thought and action into everything we do.
Boeing is committed to operating in a manner that promotes environmental stewardship.
Boeing will strive to: Conduct operations in compliance with applicable environmental laws, regulations, and Boeing policies and procedures.
Prevent pollution by conserving energy and resources, recycling, reducing waste, and pursuing other source reduction strategies.
Continually improve our environmental management system.
Work together with our stakeholders on activities that promote environmental protection.
In addition to adopting this policy, Boeing has set aggressive and transparent enterprise wide performance targets to drive environmental thought and action throughout its operations.
2010 Web site

Duke Energy
“The global markets are clearly moving toward a low-carbon economy. This shift represents a unique opportunity for countries that develop and sell cleaner energy technologies. Nations that delay will lose more jobs and the ability to compete globally, and may end up buying clean technology from foreign suppliers.”
We have shared in the past two editions of this Sustainability Report our aspiration to reduce our 2006 U.S. CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030. In 2009, our U.S. generation fleet emitted about 91 million tons of CO2 – down from 105 million tons in 2008. However, some of this reduction is a “false positive,” driven by the weakened economy and resulting lower demand for electricity.
We continued to invest in renewable energy in 2009 to diversify our fuel mix and reduce our carbon footprint. Including our renewable energy assets, our nuclear fleet in the Carolinas and our hydroelectric assets in North America and South America, we are now the third-largest producer of carbon-free electricity in the Americas among U.S.-based, investor-owned utilities. Almost 40 percent of the electricity we generated in 2009 was from carbon-free sources.

Jim Rogers CEO Duke Energy


Sonoco is working to shrink the environmental footprint at each of its more than 300 manufacturing plants in 35 countries by:
• Reducing wastes going to landfills
• Reducing energy consumption
• Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
• Reducing hazardous air emissions
• Reducing water usage
• Implementing and encouraging internal recycling programs
Read Sonoco’s Environmental Sustainability Policy.
2010 Web site
15% GHG reduction by 2013

Nucor Steel

“Sustainability—through profitable and responsible long-term growth. We are committed to being cultural and environmental stewards in the communities where we live and work. We are succeeding by working together.”

Nucor Corporation is made up of 20,400 teammates whose goal is to take care of our customers. We are
accomplishing this by being the safest, highest quality, lowest cost, most productive and most profitable
steel and steel products company in the world. We are committed to doing this while being cultural
and environmental stewards in our communities where we live and work. We are succeeding by
working together.
2009 Sustainability report


BMW has tremendous economic impact across the entire state of South Carolina. BMW’s investment in South Carolina supports over 23,000 jobs and produces $1.2 billion in wages and salaries a year. Additionally, BMW creates a multiplier effect of 4.3 meaning that for every one job created at the BMW plant that almost four jobs are created elsewhere in the economy.
BMW is committed to doing our part to protect and preserve the local resources upon which we all rely. Through corporate initiatives that encourage environmental awareness, financial support and conservation, we’re playing a leading role in sustaining the fragile eco-systems that make the Upstate community so unique. Our environmental responsibility is one we take seriously, in order to make sure the give and take between nature and business is a balanced one.
Historical examples support both sides. Railroads criss-crossed the country in the 19th Century in part because of sweetheart land grants from states and the federal government. The U.S. freeway system, created for national security, lead to a population boom and new cities in the Southwest. The Internet? It grew out of military research program. Companies like Yahoo, Google, eBay and Amazon wouldn’t have ever been born if the government hadn’t built the basic infrastructure.
“To do something, you’ve got to do something” Jeff Immelt GE CEO.
Ecomagination website

“At SCANA, we believe that now, more than ever, we must continue to be a good corporate citizen and take a leadership role in helping solve some of the issues facing our communities and do everything we can to strengthen them – by investing in education, protecting the environment and working to improve the quality of life for everyone in our communities.
It’s not just because it’s good business. It’s because it’s the right thing to do.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, really. None of our SBA members want to damage our local economy or stop fossil fuel or nuclear based energy production. We want the sustainable and smart implementation of support for small business, job creating, renewable energy policies that will enable South Carolina to grow and prosper as fossil fuel constraints begin to impact how we do business. Nuclear fission has limited Uranium sources, fossil fuel is the sun’s energy stored underground. These resources are both finite, meaning at some point as demand exceeds supply costs will go up dramatically and quite possibly dangerously. Until Exxon buys the sun, renewable energy and specifically solar will remain free. A .01% investment in generating capacity is smart policy, diversifying your energy portfolio and creating jobs is what South Carolina needs.