This is your SolarWakeup for January 17th, 2018
Listen Closely. I went back and listened to my interview with Amy Harder from Axios yesterday. Inside the conversation there were some things that were coming true in reality. The Goldman group inside the White House doesn’t seem to be having the impact we were expecting, much like the conservative think tanks, Sean Hannity, etc. Also the argument about jobs and job losses don’t seem to be moving those inside the conversation. More than anything, the bad actor label on China seems to be coming to the forefront. Go back and listen to hear what I’m talking about.
Don’t Click The Bait. We are done breaking low cost of renewables records. The conversation needs to drive towards, what do you need in order to have this energy need come from solar, wind with or without energy storage. The data from Colorado says absolutely nothing. Without knowing the ratio of storage to generation, you cannot ascertain anything at all. You also don’t know what they are doing with storage, what grid services they will provide and how many hours of capacity they are proposing. Don’t look at these results for any business metrics. Your cost of money divided into the capital costs minus operating costs will still give you the best view of the bid price. Rant over.
EVs Rule The (Future) Road. I love the additional investments into electric cars by other auto OEMs, Ford announced an $11billion push towards EVs. I’ve been an EV owner since 2012, first a Volt then a Tesla. The Volt buying experience was eye opening and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same today. The sales person knew nothing, nobody at the dealership did. How to charge, how many miles of range, what happens at the end of the range? All the OEMs will need to invest in education of the sales force. If I were Autonation, I would have an EV only showroom. Completely separate the force from the traditional vehicles and make it a competition and not a closing exercise. Tesla doesn’t have this problem by only selling EVs. At the end the solar industry wins because EV owners want solar and EVs will drastically drive down the price of batteries.
You Get A Job, You Get A Job. Energy jobs keep growing especially at the labor and middle class level. If you want to make more than the average American in your job segment, then being in solar is a great place to be. On the other hand, you may have to work through the solar coaster, stand at rallies and enjoy the sunshine. I can only imagine how many jobs solar would create in Florida if our policies opened up just a tiny bit. The same is true for Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio where most of the remaining 60,000 coalminers live.
China Is Dumping Projects Too. $0.3Trillion was invested in clean energy worldwide last year, half of it in solar. Half of the solar investments came from China which begs a curious question relating to the 201 proceeding. Should US capital file a complaint about Chinese capital buying too many projects? Is that unfair as well? Maybe that is the correlation to the real estate market that the White House would understand.
Are You Coming? There is a surprise addition to the SolarWakeup Live! event in New York. We will have an unnamed speaker (for now) that has been in almost all the meetings around the 201 case. By the time we meet in New York, the tariff should be decided and you will get to hear how it happened and we may indulge in some conversation looking back at the process. This is inside a cool theater in midtown, join us. 2 for 1 offers available if you email me.
Have a great day!
This is your SolarWakeup for January 16th, 2018
Amazing Hypocrisy. A Chinese company complaining about Chinese aggressive path into solar module manufacturing? You’ve got to let that sink in for a minute to realize how pathetic the argument from Suniva and SolarWorld really is. SolarWorld was bailed out by Qatar which is not known as a friendly global actor. Meanwhile Suniva, which couldn’t survive with tens of millions in grants, had to be bailed out by Shunfeng, a CHINESE fund. It was only once management failed to run the business properly that the former CFO saw an opportunity to run a scam on the American people with the 201 filing. Trump is being played by these folks that have misled everyone on their way to this moment.
Label The Opposition. No matter the result of the trade case, solar will look back at its tactics and realize that it played flag football in a full contact sport. There was a level of purity that the good team wanted to maintain and that wasn’t the right way to go. Think about the logic of a bankrupt Chinese company with no money and no path to ever opening up again being given the same credibility in the process as 270,000 solar professionals. In politics, you either brand your opponent or they will brand you and solar made their impact of a bad decision the argument and not the poor messenger that was trying to destroy solar.
Shell Acquisition. A few weeks after BP made the investment into Lightsource, Shell is following suit and acquiring shares in Silicon Ranch. Much of the summaries written by reporters is to hyperbolize the impact this has on the energy markets, an oil company buying a solar company. All that is BS. This is about diversifying investments and revenue streams. It would be managerial malpractice for energy companies not to have exposure into solar and the associated interconnections to the electric grid.
PG&E Must Lead The Way. We may look back on this week in a few years and saw the regulatory start to shifting away from natural gas plants. The CPUC is asking PG&E to solicit energy storage instead of making a deal with Calpine. At the same time solar advocates are pushing Michigan regulators to review the DTE request to build a new gas plant. The fundamental argument I use against regulated gas is the subsidy given to the utilities by consumers. Unless the IOU takes the fuel cost risk, the consumers should be paid for the hedge on the fuel price. The value of that hedge needs to be included in the comparison to long term renewables contracts that have no fuel cost risk.
The Q&A You Wanted. You asked for it and you’ll get it. When SolarWakeup Live happens on January 31st, we should know what is going on with the 201 case. Many of you asked me to include a Q&A so that we can talk about the various issues in the solar industry and my thoughts on the state of the market. We also moved into a larger auditorium that can hold a few extra folks. If you email me, I’ll give you a 2 for 1 coupon code so that we can have a full theater and make the networking that much better. Tickets here.
Have a great day!
This is your SolarWakeup for January 15th, 2018
New Pod. I am joined by Boris von Bormann, the CEO of Mercedes Benz Energy Americas, in the latest episode of EnergyWakeup. His role oversees the current initial roll out of the Mercedes storage systems for homes but Mercedes also makes cars that you may have heard of. The combination of the two markets intrigues me and we talk about it in this episode. Catch it here.
Last Minute Efforts. Tom Werner from SunPower has an oped The Hill today that pushes back against tariffs and praising Trump in equal parts. I get the sentiment, everything out of DC today shows the need to praise in order to drive the conversation. My larger concern is that Trump’s advisors have treated both sides of the tariff debate equally and this is in no way an equal debate. Most folks expect news to happen this week, I’ll start writing two template emails to send you I guess.
Taking On Gas. In one week, Vote Solar has taken on an anti-solar decision and at the same time a pro-gas decision. The latter is interesting. The argument against DTE Energy’s request to build a $1.2billion natural gas plan is that renewables would be a better deal for customers and DTE should show its analysis to make its case for gas. This is an offensive maneuver by Vote Solar in a State that under Governor Granholm was working hard to be a clean energy leader.
Crypto. ACWA Power is joining the crypto movement with the currency, SolarCoin. I’m going to ask some questions about coins and blockchain during our New York event to the CEO of LO3 Energy, a blockchain expert. This could come up in that conversation.
NYC Agenda Set. We’ve got our agenda set with 5 amazing conversations. I’ll be catching up with NY Green Bank’s CEO, one of the most innovative and successful green banks in the Country. The other conversations are with the manufacturer of the largest solar plus storage integrator in the world, breaking down the REV policy, blockchain in energy and future of community solar in New York. All of the conversations in a great theater setting in midtown. Please consider joining us for this event, discounts for multi tickets if you want to send your team. Here are the tickets.
Have a great day!
This is your SolarWakeup for January 12th, 2018
Happy News First. Every day there is one article that is read the most. By noon my time, I can tell what you are reading as individuals and figure out what the is driving the days conversations in the solar industry. With SolarWakeup View, you’ll get my thoughts on that event and some more info if we have it. I hope you enjoy this additional memo that can help your business prosper. Check out the article from yesterday’s news.
Daily Tariff Update. Several reporters have Trump receiving the recommendation from his advisors next week. Word has it that the import license is off the table and the question remains what they will be set at. Is it per watt or a percentage? Will there be quotas that hinder import volumes? I am honestly surprised that we are here today and it makes me question what more I could have done. I will refute today, tomorrow and next week that this was based on Trump’s request for tariffs. There is a both sides aspect to this that leaves me uncomfortable but remain hopeful that advisors will keep it under 20%.
Help Michigan Manufacturing Jobs. The grand settlement was my biggest hope in the trade process. When bankrupt SolarWorld filed the first trade complaint and received tariffs, China responded by taxing US polysilicon. Amongst other things Hemlock had to close a $1.2billion plant in Tennessee and shed hundreds of jobs, things at REC Silicon weren’t much different in Washington State. So if Trump cared about jobs more than politics, the argument would be to get rid of all tariffs and make US a silicon powerhouse and grow the solar industry even faster than it has to date.
National Security Threat. Admiral James Stavridis is the current Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. His resume includes Commander of Southern Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe. He writes now that climate change is the greatest threat to America. Have a great day everyone!
Massachusetts Update. Your top article yesterday was the news of the DPU decision in MA and you can find our SolarWakeup View here. At the same time, MA DOER released the block 1 tariffs for the SMART program which came in higher than I expected and with the multipliers from energy storage these should be great deals even with interconnection upgrades. Are you doing one of these projects? Let me know.
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Have a great day!