The most successful Solar Power Colorado in history is now in the books, and we wanted to thank all of you who were able to participate in making the conference stimulating, creative, productive, inspiring and fun! More than 500 people joined in. While making new connections and renewing old friendships, we talked, debated, ate, drank and sketched out a policy framework for the future.
We kicked things off by honoring Sen. Mark Udall for his years of leadership in renewable energy with a lifetime achievement award. Udall and his wife, climate activist Maggie Fox, checked out the latest technologies in the exhibit hall and predicted a rosy future for solar.
Our keynote speaker, Kim Jordan, CEO and Co-Founder of New Belgium Brewing talked of her employee-owned company’s B-corp. status, stressing “using business as a force for good” and described the company’s extensive renewable energy portfolio. “Leaders make choices consistent with what they stand for,” she explained.
Solar executives including Glen Davis of RES Americas, Hank Price of Abengoa Solar, Paul Spencer of Clean Energy Collective and Lou Villaire of Atlasta Solar represented the spectrum of solar from multinationals to homegrown success stories.
In a lively discussion, they stressed the importance of a strong vision, public education, a price on carbon, and continued policies supporting solar development. Policies such as the ITC and RPS were put in place to allow solar to gain volume to reach a point where subsidies are no longer needed. “We are not at that point,” said Davis. “ Supports are still meaningful. Don’t pull the plug.”
Solar People can Party
For the first time, an Evening Solar Party sponsored by Sol Systems capped off a day of discussions and networking in the Expo Hall. A band called Off the Grid provided the musical backdrop while veggies, Angus sliders, hot wings and cookies slid down easy.
Meanwhile, a regional gathering of Women in Solar Energy included a panel of solar professionals sharing experiences, along with networking and appetizers. Throughout the show, attendees filled the exhibit hall as they built business relationships.
Some of the liveliest debate of the conference came as six leaders shared ideas on how utilities are changing. Utility executives from Xcel Energy, Arizona Public Service and Grand Valley Power described solar’s challenges and opportunities with Marc Romito of APS noting, “Our product is produced and consumed in the same instant.”
Three thought leaders presented visions for the future. Veteran utilities executive David Freeman noted, “Renewable electricity is the solution to the climate crisis. This is an opportunity for the electric power industry to rise and shine.” Consultant Julie Blunden showed earnings call information from utilities to illustrate that some major companies already count renewables as the future. And Heather Bailey of the city of Boulder talked of the city’s journey toward treating low carbon electricity as a service rather than a commodity.
Honors to All
At the annual luncheon, outgoing Board President Piper Foster presented the REA Coop Partner of the Year Award to United Power, honoring the coop’s Net Metering Task Force thatexamined costs and benefits of distributed solar and decided against an extra fee. Laurent Meillon of Capitol Energy won the Sunny Award for his solar thermal policy advocacy and Rebecca Cantwell, COSEIA’s director, received the President’s Award.
A feast of Ideas
Attendees told us that the panels were interesting, useful and provocative.Because we challenged speakers to think about the next 25 years, a range of themes cropped up: the utility model of the future will be dynamic, distributed, two-way and smart, using storage and intelligent technologies to dispatch electricity in real time. Time-of-use rates that incentivize storage, a price on carbon, financing products that recognize solar’s value – and even solar repo guys in night vision goggles- were among the ideas panelists explored.
Training and Credits
The training was well received as excellent teachers covered ground from grounding requirements in the new codes to the workings of new inverters. Attendees earned continuing education credits while getting some hands-on experience.
We launched our new public engagement program called Solar CitiSuns with a video and sign-up sheets. Solar CitiSuns are solar customers and anyone who wants to see more solar energy in Colorado. Sign up today at www.gosolarcolorado.org. We will send you newsletters and let you know how you can help participate in making strong solar policies.