With all the talk of the “existential threat” to traditional utilities from solar and other disruptive technologies (and the blowback against net metering in various states), I thought I’d check...
Lessons learned for U.S. utilities – drawn from first-person fact-finding.
The German Energiewende (energy transformation) has been discussed in many academic and trade publications, all heralding either the transformational, unparalleled successes of the program, or else the dismal failure and shortsighted focus of politicians and policy makers in designing and executing the transition.
On one hand, the Energiewende has successfully brought on substantial levels of solar and wind energy in Germany. However, rising electricity rates for residential consumers, coupled with the huge losses in market capitalization for the incumbent German utilities, have raised significant questions on how successful the policy has been and whether it will be sustainable over the long term. The result is much confusion about the true nature of the Energiewende and, more importantly, what lessons learned can be applied in the U.S.
To learn first-hand from German experts on what really has occurred and how it can be applied in the U.S., the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and its partner ScottMadden, Inc., led a fact-finding mission for a group of U.S. utility executives, solar developers, and other key stakeholders to Düsseldorf, Germany. The group facilitated discussions with German utilities, government officials, and solar developers to shed new light for American executives on the why's and how's behind Energiewende. They laid a foundation for how these lessons learned could be applied proactively at utilities back home. Four specific impact areas were identified and highlighted in the various discussions held among the participants: Utility Business Models; Operations; Customers and Pricing; and Policy and Regulation.