New Year Cheer: How Utilities and Solar Companies Can Innovate Together January 14, 2014 | By Mike Taylor These are interesting solar times. On one hand, there is a LOT of solar being installed, in all market segments. (Oh the joy!) On the other hand, acrimony hangs over net metering as utilities and the solar industry butt heads in state regulatory commissions, trade outrageous TV ads and engage in hand-to-hand combat in newspaper stories. (Woe to all!) This blog will NOT solve that… But ho, a third path awaits! For those utility visionaries who can see beyond monopolistic entrenchment and those solar soothsayers who can escape their umbrella of doom, SEPA and EPRI uncover collaborative opportunities for all! (I do not jest!) With our combined efforts, we have released “Assessing Opportunities for Utilities and Third Party Owned Solar Developers to Collaborate,” a collection of ideas for smart gents and genius ladies to innovate and partner together, particularly between utilities and solar leasing companies. (All is not lost!) If they take a deep breath, utilities may find that they can call on their innate business acumen to smartly influence where solar goes and how it can operate to its fullest potential, serving the interests of the utility and its customers. If solar companies put their heads together, they may find that utilities can help them lower customer acquisition costs and meet financing needs. Both parties will share in the good vibes of better-educated, happier customers, lower shared costs, and fewer customer service calls. (Snake oil?! Nonsense!) But seriously… the paper looks at 9 potential areas of collaboration, some of which could be implemented within a year, while others may be years in the offing. These utility-TPO collaborations could potentially: 1. Optimize distributed PV system operational capabilities to strengthen the grid 2. Improve the solar customer service and billing experience while lowering costs for utilities and TPOs 3. Provide potential end-of-contract business opportunities 4. More proactively educate customers to the benefits of each organization 5. Lower TPO customer acquisition costs 6. Finance PV deployment 7. More effectively deploy solar in areas where system benefits are maximized 8. Define beneficial system or component level utility asset ownership 9. Consider PV system O&M servicing partnerships There are high-value, low-cost opportunities that abound with the right mindset of collaboration, partnership, and shared interests. None will happen successfully without communication and partnership between the two industries. It just takes the right thought and action… along with a little luck and management approval. Where can you find this paper? Download this members-only publication from the SEPA website; a login is required. Share Share on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedIn About the Author Mike Taylor Principal, Knowledge Mike Taylor is currently the Principal of Knowledge at SEPA, having previously served as the Director of Research, Director of Research & Education and Technical Services Manager. While at SEPA, Mike has published dozens of reports, hosted numerous webinars and conference sessions, successfully applied for and managed several U.S. DOE grants and has extensive contacts and experience within the solar industry. Prior to joining SEPA in 2006, Mike spent seven years with the Minnesota Department of Commerce State Energy Office working on renewable energy and fuels programs and related electric utility regulations. While working for the energy office, he started Minnesota’s first PV rebate program with $1 million in utility funding and managed several million dollars in U.S. DOE and State of Minnesota grants. Mike holds a master’s degree in science, technology and environmental policy from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.