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.
It may not be news that U.S. solar energy markets continued to boom last year. In fact, solar installations accounted for 31 percent of all electric power installations in 2013. It is always interesting, however, to look at public data for insight into why and how – what the trends and challenges are – the drivers of the growing solar markets. After collecting and analyzing available data for the seventh year, as author of IREC’s recently published U.S. Solar Market Trends 2013, the answer is quite clearly a combination of factors.
Four-hundred-billion dollars (that’s $400 billion!) spent on energy in U.S. buildings per year. Two years of work. Fifty-four organizations. One-hundred-twenty-five recommendations. These numbers only tell part of the story.
We’ve heard a lot about smart grid over the past decade, but to achieve a truly intelligent grid we need to do much more than switch out analog meters for their digital counterparts. We must also implement comprehensive new regulatory structures to make use of the data and functionality provided by these equipment upgrades. In other words, we need to modernize the grid in addition to our modes of interacting with it.
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.