Not your father’s feed-in tariff.
Mike Hall is CEO of Borrego Solar, which develops, designs and installs grid-tied solar electric power systems.
Solar supporters agree that solar electricity—particularly photovoltaic (PV) technology—has the potential to make a tremendous impact on our nation’s energy mix. The disagreement comes when you ask how best to create policies to maximize that impact.
The optimum policy will achieve a number of objectives, including: drive demand for fast development and construction of projects, use public and rate payer funds as efficiently as possible, set appropriate incentive levels, and result in solar being located where it makes the most sense.
So far, no subsidy program or policy worldwide has gotten better than mixed marks in all of these areas. However, regulators in California may be close to cracking the code. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently approved what’s known as the RAM (reverse auction mechanism) program, which mandates that utilities procure 1,000 MW of distributed solar generation. While this program has yet to prove a success, its design makes it the first large-scale solar program that has the potential to effectively accomplish virtually all of the major policy objectives.