Jim Hughes, CEO of vertically integrated solar developer First Solar, spoke at the recent Edison Electric Institute meeting in New Orleans.
He cited “three big trends” in solar power.
Utility-scale: The CEO of one of the world’s largest utility solar builders said, “There’s lots of talk around distributed generation, and yet the bulk of the photovoltaics added on a global basis is still utility-scale…[and] will continue to be utility-scale.”
“Cost, cost, and cost”: “We recently did a strategic review of our business and asked, ‘What does it take to trigger demand? How do we gain competitive advantage over our competitors?’ The answer is cost.” Hughes said that markets are being driven by “demand elasticity versus price in a rather spectacular fashion.” He gave two examples. “In Texas, 18 months ago, CPS put out an RFP and they had…responses that had a 4 in the front for a price — 4-cent solar.” He described that price as a “wake-up call” and added that the “response has been massive procurement” across the Southeastern U.S.
Expiration of the ITC: Hughes called the expiration of the ITC “irrelevant,” saying, “Within 18 months, we will overcome the cost delta resulting from the drop [of the ITC] from 30 percent to 10 percent. It actually opens up new markets, in our opinion, because you’ll see an increased interest in utility generation once the distortion of the ITC is behind us.”