While most pundits in the solar industry agree that solar is the future, questions remain on how they can get there. In California, at least, decisive action is being taken at the state level, as Governor Jerry Brown has charged solar leaders with finding a way to install 12,000 megawatts of distributed solar by 2020. While 12,000 megawatts of distributed solar would allow California to become the leader in distributed solar power, ahead of solar titans such as Germany and China, the 12,000 megawatts are only a part of a 20,000 megawatt solar capacity goal Brown has set for the coming decade.
Brown firmly believes in the viability of a solar tomorrow, as he told solar leaders, “Find the path through the thicket, on the other side, we will have our solar future.” Furthermore, during a conference at UCLA on the sector’s opportunities and challenges, Brown noted that distributed solar is “resilient and secure because it is so distributed.” Brown also noted that energy is a huge part of modern economy, but recognized that there were still issues that need to be addressed, such as technical, financial, regulatory, and coordination problems.
A larger issue, perhaps, is simply the fact that people still don’t know that rooftop solar is viable and a legitimate energy solution, as well as that the solar industry provides local jobs in every community. While panel manufacturing can be outsourced, delivery of the panels cannot be outsourced. In fact, according to solar leaders, two to three times more jobs are actually created in delivery than in manufacturing.
In addition, there remain politicians in Washington who don’t see solar technology as viable. While action has been taken at the state level, the same cannot be at the federal level. Brown acknowledges that the 2008-09 stimulus programs were the largest renewable energy investment programs America has ever had, but remains unsatisfied with the inaction. Gov. Brown remarks that “It’s not enough just to not put up hurdles. … What about getting stuff done?”
While Governor Brown has always been an ardent supporter of solar energy, he realizes all of the challenges holding distributed solar back need to be resolved sooner than later. Brown stressed the need to streamline regulatory hurdles in California’s 58 counties and 400+ cities. “The system has evolved tens of thousands of laws, hundreds of thousands of regulations. You have to push,” he said, because “if we let the process unfold, we’re not going to get to the goal.” Brown believes that strong leadership is vital for success, as he says, “Somebody has to think long term, that somebody has to have authority, and they have to exercise it.”