ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Big Solar-Residential Solar Face Off
Solar split: How a new petition is dividing rooftop and utility-scale installers in SEIA; Rooftop installers want a bigger voice in the trade group, but stress unity is still the priority
Herman K. Trabish, October 12, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Since this story ran, the contending factions have not resolved but have set aside their differences and formed a working relationship.
An emerging movement in the solar industry is calling for rooftop installers to get a bigger voice in the sector’s largest trade group, and threatening trouble if they are denied. Small solar installers within the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) started the turmoil by demanding their policy priorities be considered on equal footing with those of larger, utility-scale developers, whose deep pocketbooks give them leverage within the group. The demands show how diverging policy priorities could pull factions of the solar industry apart, but leaders on both side of the debate insisted to Utility Dive they recognize the importance of keeping the industry unified and are reaching out to those who feel under-represented.
The split has been aggravated by a significant cost difference between utility-scale and DG solar. At the core of the SEIA dissension is a simple but deep failure by DG installers and utility-scale developers to understand how interdependent they are, Shah said. SEIA is a diverse association with diverse interests and its biggest challenge is getting its members to explicitly recognize that every member of the industry helps every other member, said VP Dan Whitten. How the solar industry resolves its internal divides is sure to have an impact on the entire utility sector. SEIA's Kraemer added that rate design and net metering policy fights are symptoms of larger questions about the right utility business model for the future and how to properly compensate utilities for commodity sales and infrastructure investments... click here for more