2013: The Year Solar Will Flare
March 26, 2013
Yesterday’s I posted about urgent warnings to traditional electrical generators. Disruptive change is here.
Your biggest customers will begin to self generate and store power in this decade. Change or die.
More evidence keeps showing up.
NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), the biggest power provider to U.S. utilities, has become a renegade in the $370 billion energy-distribution industry by providing electricity directly to consumers.
Bypassing its utility clients, NRG is installing solar panels on rooftops of homes and businesses and in the future will offer natural gas-fired generators to customers to kick in when the sun goes down, Chief Executive Officer David Crane said in an interview.
NRG is the first operator of traditional, large-scale power plants to branch into running mini-generation systems that run a single building. The endeavor strikes at the core business of utilities that have earned money from making and delivering electricity ever since Thomas Edison flipped the switch on the first investor-owned power plant in Manhattan in 1882.
Consumers are realizing “they don’t need the power industry at all,” Crane, 54, said in an interview at this year’s MIT Energy Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “That is ultimately where big parts of the country go.”
Recent technological and economic changes are expected to challenge and transform the electric utility industry. These changes (or “disruptive challenges”) arise due to a convergence of factors, including: falling costs of distributed generation and other distributed energy resources (DER); an enhanced focus on development of new DER technologies; increasing customer, regulatory, and political interest in demand- side management technologies (DSM); government programs to incentivize selected technologies; the declining price of natural gas; slowing economic growth trends; and rising electricity prices in certain areas of the country. Taken together, these factors are potential “game changers” to the U.S. electric utility industry, and are likely to dramatically impact customers, employees, investors, and the availability of capital to fund future investment. The timing of such transformative changes is unclear, but with the potential for technological innovation (e.g., solar photovoltaic or PV) becoming economically viable due to this confluence of forces, the industry and its stakeholders must proactively assess the impacts and alternatives available to address disruptive challenges in a timely manner.
While the pace of disruption cannot be predicted, the mere fact that we are seeing the beginning of customer disruption and that there is a large universe of companies pursuing this opportunity highlight the importance of proactive and timely planning to address these challenges early on so that uneconomic disruption does not proceed further. Ultimately, all stakeholders must embrace change in technology and business models in order to maintain a viable utility industry.
The revolution in energy markets caused by the growing impact of rooftop solar PV is about to take a dramatic leap in scale.
According to analysts from the global investment banking giant UBS, the arrival of socket parity – where the cost of installing solar is cheaper than grid-sourced supplies – is about to cause a boom in un-subsidised solar installation in Europe, and the energy market may never be quite the same again.
Such forecasts have long been the province of environmentalists, climate activists, university researchers, and the occasional industry leader, such as David Crane, the head of NRG, the largest generator of electricity in the US.
Now, the team of energy analysts from UBS, writing in response to plunging power prices in Europe, has issued a stunning report entitled “The unsubsidised solar revolution” – suggesting that investing in solar will become a “no brainer” for households in several European countries, and will have profound implications for the incumbent energy industry.
“Solar has turned from a heavily-subsidised marginal technology into a mainstream source of power generation,” the UBS analysts write. ” “Thanks to significant cost reductions and rising retail tariffs, households and commercial users are set to install solar systems to reduce electricity bills – without any subsidies.”