What is Solar's Potential and its Future in America? RealClearPolitics Interviews Director Ronen

RealClear Politics
October 23, 2014

Carl Cannon, the DC Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics, asks GW Solar Institute Director Amit Ronen about the recent International Energy Agency (IEA) report which found that solar energy would be the largest single energy source by 2050. Director Ronen agreed that this was a significant finding, particularly since IEA reports are considered quite conservative given their need to reach consensus amongst representatives of all of IEA's 29 member countries.  He explained that solar energy prices are likely to continue to decline and will likely make solar the cheapest source of energy in the future.

Carl Cannon mentions that one of the main hindrances to the solar industry has been access to capital, pointing to government programs in place designed to help finance solar businesses and projects, asking if this is going to be a continued trend. Ronen said that government support for nascent energy technologies, such as the federal loan guarantee programs and tax incentives, are critical to allow new technologies to overcome market barriers to entry and access capital. Ronen explained that once a new technology moves past the “valley of death” and reaches a certain level of market penetration, solar energy becomes more attractive to banks and other private institutions that typically finance new companies and projects. 

Director Ronen also mentions that some of the top states using solar – New Jersey, North Carolina, Massachusetts – aren’t necessarily the sunniest, but are excelling because the state policies in place support solar energy development. And that the states with supportive solar policies were also the states that had high job growth rates. He mentions that the solar energy industry is a job creation leader and that according to the 2013 Solar Jobs Census, which was released by the GW Solar Institute in partnership with The Solar Foundation, the solar industry grew at ten times the national growth rate.  

Carl Cannon also asks Director Ronen about the potential for other clean energy sources.  Ronen responded that energy diversity is important and that all energy sources have tradeoffs that need to be taken into account. Cannon asks Ronenwhether there are any great developments that could change the way we think about energy.  Ronen responded that there are many potentially game changing technologies on the horizon.  For example, when most people think of solar, they think of solar panels on homes, however there are already companies that are selling windows that have a transparent film that can generate electricity and in the future there will be other developments such as the paint on a building may also be able to capture the sun's energy and turn it into electricity.  Ronen also believes that there are also going to be developments in solar energy storage that will allow solar energy consumers to own self-contained systems that do not need to be connected to the grid.