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What the solar industry faces now

Colorado's Solar Energy Industries Association (CoSEIA) held its annual conference in Loveland in early February. CoSEIA has over 400 members, the largest membership of any other state on a per capita basis. The conference was sold out, a new high water mark for the association and an indicator of the increasing demands for actionable information on the solar energy industry.

The group is a business-to-business organization facilitating relationships up and down the supply chain from manufacturers to component vendors to installers. It has recognized the value of solar PV and solar thermal in the transformation of Colorado's energy and fiscal economy.

Solar Energy International , a member of CoSEIA, offers a broad spectrum of classes for designers, builders and installers of solar solutions. Classes are available online, instructor led classrooms, and in laboratories. The SEI curriculum is also available at most community colleges throughout the state. Upon completion of the course work, a student can take the NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) exams for professional certification.

Neal Lurie, Executive Director of CoSEIA, addressed specific accomplishments of the organization including:
• Supporting the adoption of Colorado's HB11-1199 to streamline the permitting process and limit permitting fees;
• Supporting the passage of Amendment 37, Colorado's Renewable Energy Act;
• Engaged with the coalition to pass HB-1001, increasing Colorado's Renewable Energy Standard to 30% by 2020;
• Launched efforts to develop the solar thermal roadmap for Colorado, due in the fall, 2011;
• Expanded its efforts with Xcel Energy and the PUC increase the solar thermal demand side program; and
• Continue its on-going market education, outreach and awareness efforts.

The conference had numerous panel discussions, but one panel in particular nailed down the issues the solar energy industry is facing. The panel, titled Solar CEO and Executive Panel, was made up of industry thought leaders from Ascent Solar Technologies, Abound Solar, Advanced Energy Industries, SkyFuel, and Abengoa Solar. These gentlemen made the following insightful points:

• Foreign competition - protectionist federal policies will only hurt the industry in the long run by driving up costs, reducing R&D in the U.S., and eliminating best of breed solution development. In the near term, foreign competition is challenging, but over the long haul global competition is good for the industry.
• Federal energy policy - the U.S. is the only industrialized nation without an energy policy. The lack of policy increases business risk, drives up the cost of capital, tightens lending policies, reduces the availability of credit, and raises the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs.
• Solar market is maturing - There is a lot of excitement in the solar energy industry. Non-traditional players with deep pockets of their own such as GE and BP are entering the fray. The net result is that the next two to three years will define the solar industry going forward through market consolidation, partnerships, mergers & acquisitions, and other industry defining shakeups.

The CEO and executive leaders' panel offered the following points as solutions to address the current solar industry issues:

• At the federal level - develop a long term tax policy that will stabilize the alternative energy industry; develop a national energy policy that includes renewable for the entire country; look at manufacturing jobs from a global perspective and incentivize manufacturers to stay in the U.S.; adopt a long term loan guarantee program.
• At the state level - clean up and streamline the permitting process; look at the state as a whole rather than county by county for energy implementation solutions; focus on large scale storage as part of the energy portfolio solutions; and stabilize the local business environment to ensure the flow of capital.

 For more information, to volunteer, or to become a member go to www.CoSEIA.org.

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Martha Young

Martha Young is principal at NovaAmber, LLC, a business strategy company based in Golden. Young has held positions as industry analyst, director of market research, competitive intelligence analyst, and sales associate. She has written books, articles, and papers regarding the intersection of technology and business for over 15 years. She has co-authored four books on the topics of virtual business processes, virtual business implementations, and project management for IT. Young can be reached at myoung@novaamber.com or on Twitter @myoung_vbiz




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