Imagine a grid tied solar power array with a twenty year pay off time. Now imagine trying to sell that array to a customer, difficult if not impossible to achieve. What the SREC (Solar Renewable Energy Credit) has done for the solar power industry is akin to what Ford did for the automobile industry almost a hundred years ago. SRECs allow an average homeowner or business to invest in renewable energy and to invest in themselves by creating returns year after year. The solar industry is certainly heading towards a stronger future and is gaining an increased following by the average person and business. SRECs have and will continue to fund this development.
In the upcoming years, as solar modules become more efficient and thin film becomes more prevalent, solar power will undoubtedly become commonplace for our homes and places of business. Material and installation costs will decrease due to increases in power production from the modules. Installation techniques will also streamline into BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaic) and easier retro fitting solutions such as alternating current solar modules and thin-film adhering applications. SRECs will likely follow the price decreasing trend of the technology. SRECs are currently based on a supply and demand market and although the demand may have come from legislation, judging by what California’s Governor Jerry Brown did on April 13, there will be no need to worry about installing “too much” renewable energy. California’s new solar initiative mandates a whopping 33% of power produced to come from renewable energies such as solar power and wind turbines and other technologies by the year 2020. Here in Massachusetts our standard is set at 15% by 2020 and increases one percent for every year after. The demand for sustainable energy appears to be forming the foundation of a sustainable industry.
The financial incentives that are used today such as tax credits, federal rebates, sales tax exemptions and others, were enacted to help the general public “go green” and popularize the renewable energy industry. They are aggressive and definitely very helpful in making sustainable energy production affordable for the middle class. However, we can’t expect this industry to survive long term on government subsidies and handouts. SRECs can provide the cash flow necessary to carry the initial cost leading to the subsequent future return on investment. SRECs just make sense because they create a commodity that can be sold on an open market.
We need to help our industry thrive by making the products we sell affordable to everyday businesses and homeowners. This should not be achieved by undercutting fellow installers or by selling inferior products, it should be done by utilizing the latest technology and installation techniques to ensure a highly productive installation while promoting our industry and its members. To do this, we need to continue utilizing local training facilities and participating in local town fairs to demonstrate and promote the effectiveness of going green.
Creating a sustainable industry needs to be achieved by helping the Renewable Initiatives in each state achieve their goals and therefore our goals. The effect of making this new style of investment will help us locally, nationally and throughout the world, not only on a financial basis or in the thousands of jobs are created, but by the sheer independence that we will have accomplished from the limited amounts of oil, coal and other fossil fuels.
SRECs are certainly doing their part in the green revolution, and our industry is doing its best to insure businesses and people know what they are and how they work. Let’s keep up the good work. Remember that for every SREC that is created, its one step closer to reducing our carbon foot print, creating more jobs, reducing our addiction to fossil fuels, and creating a tomorrow for the next generation of Green.
Each potential installation that we assess entails a conversation about what an SREC is and what they do, how they can be used, and why they were created. As an installer and owner of United Solar Associates, it is of the utmost importance to convey the message that the SREC is the sustaining force of the PV industry. Most potential customers can understand this fairly easily with some information and the others may need a little more help, but the basic principle is easy to describe. When we invest in renewable energy, we are investing in our future.