US photovoltaics market set to explode

Michael T. Eckhart, president of the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) has said that he believes solar markets in the U.S have the capacity to reach to between 10 to 20 gigawatts (GW) annually by 2020. “The market for solar energy technologies will be similar to the markets for personal computers and cellular phones in the past 30 years: it will be stunningly big and fast,” he commented.

These figures are, however, dependent on continued public policy. Mr. Eckhart continued: “Public policy is important to this and further accelerates the growth. We need another five to ten years of policy. The Feed-In-Tariffs (FITs) made famous in Germany have ignited market demand there. It is about to happen here [in the U.S.].”

He went on to explain that ACORE has been working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in recent months to see if a regulatory path for an “Americanized FIT” – based in the old Federal Power Act – could be found, in order to avoid the “complications of using PURPA”.

He said: “After some digging, we found the path and coined it RESO – Renewable Energy Standard Offer Contracts and Rates. It turns out that the legal precedents are there. We just had to look for them. There is precedent for states to promulgate standard offer contracts. This can be applied to the implementation of state-level Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), as a second implementing method along with utility procurement.

“I believe that, if we can get this RESO approach to be implemented, and also the municipal utilities act, the solar markets across the U.S. will experience truly explosive growth. I can imagine the U.S. market booming to 10 GW to 20 GW per year by 2020, and continuing to increase after that time.”

He concluded: “We are on the precipice of a great success. I believe PV’s time has come. The costs are coming into the “go zone.” Policy is coming together. And low-cost financing will be there if 20-year RESO contracts assure that the revenues will be there. The ingredients of success are coming together. This is a great time to be in PV.”

Watch out for Michael T. Eckhart’s opinion piece for pv magazine – online next week – where he discusses this topic in full.