SunPower CEO: Solar Industry Presented With Unique Mix Of Opportunities & Challenges

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SunPower CEO Tom WernerThe CEO of SunPower, Tom Werner, recently penned an interesting piece commenting on the opportunities and challenges that are currently facing the solar energy industry.

As the solar energy industry is currently “in the midst of an unprecedented period of transformation” — mostly owing to falling costs (down ~82% in the last 5 years) and the great potential for growth that now exists — Werner notes in the piece that he’s “mindful that our work is just getting started.”

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, solar energy projects will account for around 30% of all installed energy generation in the US by 2040 — which certainly corroborates Werner’s comment above, as solar energy currently only comprises around 1% of US electricity generation.

Commenting on the similarities and differences between the marketplace in 2009 and now, Werner notes that the differences are “three-fold: private sector leadership, a strong public policy foundation, and technological innovations that are fundamentally changing how businesses and consumers source and consume energy.”

He expands on that with these notes:

  • Corporate leaders from Apple to Bed Bath & Beyond to Macy’s and Walmart are among the many US-based companies that are embracing solar as a cornerstone of their operations.
  • COP21, the Solar Power Plan, California’s Net Energy Metering 2.0, the extension of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and other public-private initiatives reinforce the commitment of policymakers to provide a lasting foundation.
  • Technological advancements, from unprecedented solar cell efficiency to system integration to energy management, keep us looking forward. In fact, combining solar with storage and energy management, once thought decades away, is now within our reach.

He also adds some key comments on the challenges facing the solar industry:

  • Although a highly unique and isolated situation, the SunEdison bankruptcy contributed to a sense of market uncertainty.
  • While the ITC had the opposite effect (providing greater certainty), it also removed the urgency for power plant project construction in the second half of this year.
  • When it comes to financing, we’re seeing less competition.
  • We’re in another transitional period. Companies that make the right investments today and innovate with the long-term in mind will emerge as the solar energy companies of tomorrow.

An interesting perspective, one that sounds more or less accurate to me. The next decade or so will be very interesting in the solar energy industry.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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