US: new DOE head "bullish" on solar power

While political battles over renewable energy have been heating up in parts of the U.S., the incoming DOE Secretary has indicated that he is supportive of the continuing rollout of renewable energy including solar. In terms of solar, Secretary Moniz has said that the U.S. should be, "pushing on solar across the board," and that, "it’s going to be a lot bigger than a lot of people think, sooner than they think."

Moniz was speaking on an online video espousing some of his positions on energy in the U.S.

In the video, Moniz said that cheap gas, delivered through unconventional methods like shale gas exploitation or fracking, will provide the U.S. with an opportunity to transition to zero-carbon energy sources, like solar and wind. "Gas is a bridge to a low carbon future," said Moniz, "to develop technologies, lower the cost, get the market penetration of these new technologies."

He added that along with onshore wind and photovoltaics, geothermal and small-scale hydro technologies should also be developed.

Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) said she was not surprised with the remarks and that they align with her predictions for photovoltaics in the U.S. "There seems to very little reason why solar shouldn’t grow very quickly, particularly on the distributed side."

Chase noted, however, that solar’s future is not entirely assured and that the pace of its expansion could be slowed by a pushback against solar net metering in a number of states. "This is starting to be a hot topic in the U.S.," said Chase, "the removal of net metering legislation is probably the biggest risk to long-term solar growth in the U.S."

The BNEF solar analyst said that many U.S. utilities have woken up to the costs of net metering, where solar households can feed electricity into the grid on sunny days, to draw on it at other times and at no cost. "Utilities have to find some solution where they are compensated for that service," said Chase.