September 2012 Post Event Update

I had a great time at Munro’s conference and learned a lot. Thanks again to Munro for hosting. My workshop went well, it’s a little difficult to get people to open up but after a few minutes everyone got the idea. Here’s a few things I learned from speaking with people, all of these are anecdotes.

The confusion around REC programs is causing delays in market growth. Technically, Rhode Island and Connecticut have programs, but it’s still unclear how exactly they will work
Some smaller firms are having trouble getting into large commercial work because the “big guys” (Borrego, Beaumont Solar, Nexamp, etc) keep getting all the business.
There some confusion from property owners around the Massachusetts SREC program and how exactly it works. This is compounded when many installers describe how the program works in different, sometimes contradictory ways.
During the workshop, the main question I continued to raise when people brought up issues was “is this something we can fix/work on, or do we just need to wait until the government/utility deals with it?”. Unfortunately, most of the issues, like how exactly the CT ZREC program works, are out of our hands. However, I’ve decided to create a “Pocket Guide to the Massachusetts SREC Program” that will include all of the important talking points of the program.
Here are what I felt were the most important photos from the event. You can find the rest of the photos here. 

The Original Post

Last week, I had a conversation with Glenn Maltais from Munro Distributing about their “Innovations in Clean Energy” conference that is happening on Thursday, Sept. 6th. At first, I thought it was “just another” clean energy onference, but after speaking with Glenn for a few moments, it was clear he had a larger goal in mind: connecting, educating and politically mobilizing the huge influx of clean energy contractors that are entering the industry.

Then I started thinking, when will clean energy become a major political force and what exactly do we need to do to make this happen? The purpose of the Innovation in Clean Energy event is not only to provide basic education and guidance to contractors and new firms that are joining to the industry, but to make sure that we have the information and relationships establish to be a political force and realize that we can have a huge impact locally.

I’ll be there and moderating a workshop at 11am titled “How to Make Money in Renewable Energy”, if you’re around it would be great to have you. You can register here. In the workshop we’ll be discussing and sharing things that specific firms are doing to make money in the industry, and how this overlaps with policy.

Here’s the rest of the conversation I had with Glenn about clean energy and policy.

Question to Glenn: From a policy perspective, what is your goal hosting the conference?

Answer: In short, to do our part as it pertains to securing clean energy’s place (and all the attributes it represents) on Main St. USA. Granted it’s somewhat unusual for a private company such as ours to host an event of this breadth and scope. However, in light of how dysfunctional Washington politics have become (the “if you say it’s white – I will say it’s black” mentality) it should be apparent to all that consistent, bankable and sustainable solutions to our current and growing energy challenges will not be coming out of Washington anytime soon. Having said that, Washington is only part of the equation, it will take forward-thinking and policy support at the state-level, like that found in Massachusetts, to permanently move the needle as well. But there is a third leg to this clean energy stool, and that is the business sector – we too must do our part in meaningful ways to support this fledgling clean energy movement. Under the current fragmented framework that makes up the Clean Energy sector progress will be slow and the future uncertain. Collectively however, it is possible to achieve the required critical mass. Allow me to end where we began…there is strength in numbers! If we clear the path and provide them with the necessary political cover, our leaders will follow.

It’s an interesting questions to ponder: with the huge growth of the clean energy industry, when will we become a political powerhouse? There are snippets of data that are suggesting a tipping point is coming, but we still have some pushing to do.

Here are a few data points that discuss the groundswell of activity

There are 71,523 Clean Energy Jobs in Massachusetts 
Romney is getting heat in Iowa for his statement about wind production tax credits. 
The most recent solar job census found that the solar industry employed over 100,000 in August of 2011, and that solar jobs were growing at over ten times the rate of the U.S economy.

Some points worth noting in this data:

Solar pv is adding jobs extremely quickly and we have the numbers to prove it. However, the data also suggests that many more jobs are being created in energy efficiency, R+D and manufacturing. The Massachusetts data shows that there’s also a huge amount of jobs to be created in R+D, and also energy efficiency. If there were 100,000 solar pv jobs in the US and 73,000 clean energy jobs in MA, a large number of the jobs in Massachusetts MUST NOT be related to solar PV.
Contrary to popular opinion, Manufacturing jobs are growing in the US, but it tend to be advanced manufacturing

New wording around interpretting licensing in Massachusetts will mean more firms get involved