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Reflections on Joe Biden’s speech at SPI 2015

Ray HudsonIt was very interesting to listen to our Vice President speak at SPI last week in Anaheim.  Joe Biden gave an enthusiastic and informative talk that resonated with the audience.  Two key components of his talk were related to economics and politics.

It jumped out dramatically to me how far the solar industry has moved when he spoke about the cost reductions of solar generated electricity – even referring to getting near the parity price with other conventional generation sources.  He mentioned an especially low solar electricity price of 3.7 cents per kWh.  While this is lower than the power purchase agreement price for most PV plants it shows where the pricing is going – down to very competitive levels.  This is especially true when the benefits of installing solar as distributed generation are taken into account.  VP Biden mentioned that he knew the SPI audience knows this but he wanted the press to hear it and get the word out (I actually think some of the audience was surprised at the 3.7 cent number).  Economically competitive solar generated electricity represents a real game changer – both in the US and globally – that fundamentally changes the way solar is positioned.

The speech did roam into the political realm – at times Biden sounded like a politician planning to run for President – it is my view that solar can be supported by both ends of the political spectrum and it would be better for the industry to not position solar in a way that it is a partisan issue.  There are benefits from solar that appeal both to both sides. Some examples are that environmental and carbon emission reduction aspects appeal to the left while energy independence for both individuals and the nation can appeal to the right.  The jobs and economic benefits can appeal to all.  My hope is that support for solar can be one of those rarities in US politics – an example of bipartisan support.

These are interesting times for solar as an industry with technical advancements as well as increasing economic and political importance.  The solar industry should grab this golden opportunity to facilitate broad political support.

Read more about Vice President Biden’s speech and Ray Hudson’s views on it in Utility Dive.

Raymond M. Hudson is the Global Solar Service Line Leader for DNV GL.  Mr. Hudson has been involved in the power electronics and renewable energy industry since 1990 with an emphasis on power conversion and application of solar PV and wind power. The DNV GL global solar energy team he coordinates provides Independent Engineering, Owners Engineering, system design and grid interconnection assistance, solar technology review services, and operating solar asset management services. This includes the support for successful financing of over 2,500 solar power plants. He has personally been involved in reviewing inverter technology including due diligence on products from over 20 leading global manufacturers.  Mr. Hudson holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Electrical Engineering with Honors and Magna Cum Laude from the University of Missouri – Columbia with emphasis on power electronics.  Mr. Hudson holds several patents related to power conversion technology for renewable energy. 

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