Fall is when IREC releases its annual report, Trends Shaping Our Clean Energy Future. These 35 pages are not just a litany of our activities but dig into deeper reasoning of what we’ve done over the past 12 months; why it’s important; who we’ve touched; and where it leads. Do take a look. From both our national workforce and regulatory experience, here are six trends we see heading into 2015.
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.”
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.
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.
Oh no, another roadmap! Sometimes dubbed business or strategic plans, they come with different personalities and effectiveness. Many end up sitting on the proverbial “shelf,” but I’m writing about one that won’t collect dust.
It was a year ago that we wrote in this column about the stifling effect of operating in silos. Our particular focus was (and still is) on the unfortunate split between the renewable energy and energy efficiency options which crops up in all sorts of ways – as separate organizations, government project and policy programs, conferences and consumer marketing campaigns. We thought that now would be a good time to take a look at how IREC is doing in closing the divide between renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Thank You Mr. President: More Support for Training Programs at Community Colleges Will Ready More Workers for Solar Jobs
May 9 was a momentous day for solar energy with one giant announcement kicking off a new set of promising and proven actions. President Obama publicized more than 300 private and public sector commitments to create jobs and cut carbon pollution by advancing solar deployment and energy efficiency. Some of these headline initiatives included innovative financing for deploying solar, two billion dollars in energy efficiency investments for federal buildings, improving appliance efficiency, strengthening building codes and, drumroll please, additional investment in building a competent solar workforce.
In true marathon spirit, IREC has had its running shoes on this spring, hitting conferences and meetings on all sides of the country. These events have been most fruitful and rewarding – well worth the long TSA lines and full planes. Having face-to-face time with many colleagues has given us new insights to make our work more meaningful.
Storage is cool. It’s so ingrained in our daily lives that it’s invisible. From the pantry closet and fridge storing our food to fuel tanks in our homes and cars, storage gives us the advantage to have something when we need it. It’s there waiting to be used. So, doesn’t it make a lot of sense to store excess power from photovoltaics and other distributed generation resources to provide backup during outages? And, wouldn’t storage change the intermittent nature of PV on cloudy days and at night into a more dispatchable resource? Couldn’t it also provide other grid services to help maintain power quality and reliability?
Rumor has it that “green” jobs have faded into the sunset. After all, enrollment for some renewable energy training is down and new topics are nudging “green” off the hit parade list. But wait, not so fast. Don’t believe the unfounded rumor mill. What we need now is to put an end to the green-job-hype era and move into the age of green reason. IREC now declares February the turning point as we firmly set course for a balanced and responsive approach to matching quality training to the job market. The good news is that we’re on our way.