IREC premieres our new industry-targeted video this week in Las Vegas at Solar Power International (SPI), Accelerate Your Success: Quality is quiet. Mistakes are not. With thanks to ACT Foundation funding, through the National Network of Business and Industry Associations, the film clearly traces why credible credentials count and reduce costly mistakes. You’ll see we employed a bit of cartoon humor to bring home the message that “the best new technology is only as good as the workmanship around it.”
According to market research conducted by the Shelton Group, 80 percent of Americans don’t think they use more energy today than they did five years ago, and about half think their homes are already energy efficient. As misguided as this perception may be, it certainly throws a wrench in the works when trying to sell consumers on energy efficient products or retrofit work.
I’ve been asked quite a few times about the National Network of Business and Industry Associations. IREC was invited to join the National Network a year ago and I just got back from Austin where it celebrated its first-year anniversary. A few facts. This National Network goes way beyond the clean energy industry as many major business sectors participate – manufacturing, retail, healthcare, energy, construction, hospitality, transportation and information technology sectors.
I always enjoy learning obscure terms for collective nouns (a convocation of eagles, a bloat of hippopotamuses) so I wonder if we could coin a good term for a collection of shared solar programs? A ‘bounty’ perhaps? Whatever we call it, the collection of programs continues to grow year after year. If you’ve been following IREC for some time, you may have seen the collection we maintain online, IREC’s Shared Solar Program Catalog.
Across the US, more than 150 training providers and trainers credentialed by IREC are doing their part to grow the clean energy economy. They offer or teach high quality courses that prepare students for real clean energy jobs. They collaborate with industry partners to ensure training reflects current and safe practices. And they focus on learner-centered instruction.
Trying to fit today’s realities into an old mold doesn’t work for the electric grid business. There is a need to understand and act upon a changing marketplace, as new technologies, grid and bottom-line benefits of distributed resources, and customer participation and expectations are prompting shifting tides. The solar industry can’t ride on past ways when market penetration is climbing, bumping into business models and rate designs. Pillar policies need to be looked at with a critical eye. That doesn’t mean throwing them out, but it does mean a collective, rational review can hopefully accommodate a transformational market.
In the summer, I tend to listen to music more often than during the rest of the year. During my formative years, I was a fan of the rock group Pink Floyd, and yes, I still enjoy their music today. One of their more famous songs, “Another Brick in the Wall,” was released in 1979, the same year I started teaching, so it has special meaning to me. I made a pact with myself that I would never be just another brick in the wall, and I’d like to think that over my 32-year teaching career, I’ve made a difference.
In a July 8 news release, the National Association of Counties (NACo) cited the workforce skills gap as THE top barrier to economic development in the U.S. With the national unemployment rate still hovering over 6 percent (and much higher in some areas), this is a sobering observation. NACo’s release focuses on collaboration as a key to this conundrum, and IREC couldn’t agree more.
Interconnection reform is the hottest new dish on the regulatory menu. Discussions are currently ongoing in Illinois and North Carolina, following the path-charting decisions in Hawaii, California, Massachusetts and Ohio over the past two years. It’s no surprise either; reforming interconnection procedures that are no longer suitable for today’s rapid solar adoption rates can be a win-win situation for both developers and utilities.
Last week, Massachusetts formally adopted improvements to its interconnection procedures that make it easier for small renewable energy systems to connect to the distribution grid, without compromising safety or power quality. MA joins a handful of other leading states, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), adopting use of a 100 percent of minimum load penetration screen in its supplemental review process. Most simply, this is a recognition that smaller systems have less complex review needs.