Welcome to this special publication documenting the first Solar Leadership Forum, held at the Carneros Inn in Napa, California 2-3 February 2011.
The solar Leadership Forum was the fourth in the Bloomberg New energy Finance Leadership Forum series of invitation-only, executive level think tanks to examine renewable energy sectors at key moments in their growth and maturation. The solar Leadership Forum convened 50 industry thought leaders from photovoltaic and solar thermal electric technology, materials science, venture capital and private equity, project development, and utilities. Thought leaders joined us from americas, europe, and asia; 60% of them were Chief-level executives within their organizations.
The solar industry is undergoing a seismic shift from a sector defined by technology development and deployment, into a maturing and expanding part of the world’s energy supply. With a 40% compound annual growth rate of new build since the 1970s, solar is not slowing down; it saw a 140% growth spurt in 2010. While the technology is decreasing in cost cent by cent, governments around the world are spending billions after billions of dollars in solar subsidies. it is this very rapidity of growth that provides the industry’s greatest challenge. When markets are created by policy mechanisms and sustained through above market energy payments, they have proven prone to explosive growth as as well as to economy-driven implosion. When technology developers can earn 30% margins on pV panels while their established contract-manufacturer peers are satisfied with 5%, compression, substitution – or consolidation – will become inevitable.
As the solar industry continues to grow, it will face a world of second-order effects beyond the growth concerns of today. Solar at 50GW or 100GW per year will force the industry to address the drawbacks of intermittency and the benefits of dispatchable peak load generation; to optimize the balance of system, and not just pV modules; and to consider solar not as a niche source of energy generation, but as a ubiquitous source of power in developed and developing countries.
By design, the Solar Leadership Forum was an executive gathering. The unique perspectives of so many highly-placed decision-makers in the sector, gathered for a common purpose, allowed Ceos and analysts to examine solar’s emergent issues and opportunities – those of today, and those of coming years and decades. In publishing our results book, it is our ambition that not only the solar sector’s leaders, but leading policymakers, financiers, and corporate managers will read our findings as guidance to the industry as it continues to grow and mature.
For full coverage on the 2011 Solar Leadership Forum download the Result Book.