10 Experts Weigh in on the Future of Solar in 2019

Amy Hou  |  December 13, 2018   |  Data & Technology  

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With the advent of new technology and evolving policy, solar in 2019 will see dramatic changes. We asked 10 experts what they see in the future of solar, and here’s what they said:

The future of solar in 2019 will be…

Utility-driven…

“In 2019, utilities will play an increasingly active role in educating consumers about their solar options, including rooftop solar, community solar, and energy storage,” says Vikram Aggarwal, CEO and founder of EnergySage. “In doing so, they’ll further establish themselves as a trusted energy advisor to their customers, while attracting millions of new solar-interested consumers. Utilities that embrace this role will be best positioned for long-term success.”

In addition to heightened consumer demand, lower costs will also drive renewed interest in utility-scale solar. According to Ryan Sanders, Chairman of the Georgia Large Scale Solar Association: “The utility-scale solar market will continue to consolidate and grow, as well-capitalized firms benefit from the federal ITC step down, and utility companies become smarter and more bullish about integrating solar on to their energy grids. These forces will continue to drive the cost to deploy solar down.”

In most cases, solar or other clean technologies will win.

Steffanie Dohn, Director of Government Relations at the South Carolina Solar Business Alliance, likewise predicts that market forces will drive the growth of solar in 2019. “I see ‘all-source bidding’ – the practice of letting the market identify the most cost-competitive solutions to replace new or retiring capacity – as a positive trend,” says Dohn. “This practice enables utilities to navigate the ever-increasing array of cost-competitive options for meeting their customers’ needs. In most cases, solar or other clean technologies will win.”

Community-led…

“In 2019, both community solar and solar for commercial & industrial (C&I) customers will exhibit strong year-over-year growth in the Southeast,” says Bryan Jacob, Solar Program Director at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Duke Energy is expanding community solar programs in North and South Carolina, and Tampa Electric recently proposed a shared solar program in Florida. SACE will continue to advocate and work for supportive public policy to ensure that this growth continues; good policies and favorable economics will drive additional solar project announcements in 2019.”

More and more states are joining the ranks of existing community solar markets.

MJ Shiao, Director of Community Solar at Arcadia Power, couldn’t agree more: “Community solar looks to build upon the gigawatt in the ground towards another banner year in 2019. With exciting new programs like Illinois’s Adjustable Block Program, Massachusetts’s SMART and New Jersey’s pilot, more and more states are joining the ranks of existing community solar markets with a renewed focus on serving residential and low- and moderate-income populations.

We predict that a combination of market competition, attractive policy design, and community solar’s strong track record will push more customer-friendly offerings forward – e.g., guaranteed customer savings – in 2019, as a means to scale the industry.”

Battery-powered…

Solar plus storage is the next big thing for residential solar in Georgia,” says Don Moreland, founder of Solar CrowdSource. “Solarize programs running during 2018 saw over 50 percent of participants purchasing battery storage with solar. We expect to see this trend continue into 2019, as more manufacturers enter the marketplace, supply chains recover from high demand, and the price continues to fall.”

“This is an exciting time for solar,” says Gil Hough, Executive Director of TenneSEIA. “The cost trends for solar and storage systems are both trending down dramatically. When combined with smarter power electronics and controls, they are starting to turn the traditional utility model of centralizing power generation upside down.”

…and consumer-focused

“As alternative energy policies become more prevalent in states across the U.S., builders must be in tune with the demands and requirements of structural design and implementation,” says Gary Liardon, President & COO of PetersenDean Roofing and Solar, Consumer Division. Technical expertise will “optimize the performance of solar coupled with energy storage components, as well as other clean energy systems.”

To help in optimizing system performance, detailed consumer data will become more easily accessible. “Traditionally, time-of-use (TOU) rates have been more common for commercial energy customers, as utilities encourage them to shift usage toward off-peak hours,” says Sanjoy Malik, CEO of Urjanet. “But now that states like California are mandating TOU, we’re going to start seeing it more and more among residential customers. Because of that, in 2019, as installers work to build tailored solar proposals for customers, they’ll rely on more granular data to monitor on-peak, off-peak, and demand usage.”

Solar companies will give consumers something they have never had before — complete control of their energy.

All of this will culminate in a better customer experience for the future of solar. “In the next few years, software will make solar dead simple for consumers,” says Eric Reinhardt, Senior Director of Software Product Management at Sunrun. “With innovations in remote imagery and solar design, software customers will be able to get an accurate solar quote that is custom to their unique home almost instantaneously. Consumers will be able to set it and forget it and know that companies like Sunrun will be optimizing their solar service to maximize their savings and give them something they have never had before —  complete control of their energy.”

 

Altogether, the future of solar in 2019 will see expansions in utility-scale solar, community solar programs, battery storage adoption, and tailored, consumer-focused system design. Have different ideas? Join us on LinkedIn and let us know.

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About Amy Hou

Amy Hou is a Marketing Associate at Urjanet, writing about emerging topics in sustainability, energy management, and data innovation.


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