Documenting the Solar Energy Revolution

Posted below are two articles on a massive (1.1 GW) PV project in Abu Dhabi. The first, from pv magazine and dated September 20, 2016, reports on the three bids received for this project by the Abu Dhabi Electricity and Water Authority. The second, a press release put out by JinkoSolar Holding Company on May 24, 2017, announces the signing of an $870 million agreement for the project. It is estimated that commercial operation will begin in April 2019 for what will be the world’s largest single utility scale solar PV plant.

Both articles confirm what is becoming increasingly obvious: the world is in the initial stages of an energy transition from dependence on fossil fuels to steadily increasing dependence on solar energy and other forms of renewable energy. This transition is inevitable and represents a major step forward in human history and a positive legacy to all future generations.

Abu Dhabi: Three world record bids entered for Sweihan solar project by Sam Pothecary (9-20-2016)

Further information has arisen from the record breaking solar PV tender that took place in Abu Dhabi yesterday, which saw a bid as low as USD 0.0242 per kWh for a utility-scale project in Sweihan, however, this was not the only record-breaking bid, as three of the six bidders went lower than ever before.

Yesterday, pv magazine reported breaking news of the world record bid during the tender taking place in Abu Dhabi. Today, new information about all of bids that were entered has emerged and it shows an incredible trend of rock bottom prices for energy generated using solar power.

Six consortiums, made up of two or three members, entered bids into the auction, with the team of Jinko Solar and Marubeni putting in the most price competitive bid of just USD 0.0242 per kWh. pv magazine spoke with a senior representative of Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA) today who supplied detailed information about the bids, which can be seen in the table below.

In addition to the official bids, local media is reporting that one of the consortiums offered a price as low as USD 0.023 per kWh, provided that the PV project could be larger than 1.1 GW. The initial size of the project was set at 350 MW, but the Abu Dhabi Electricity and Water Authority (ADWEA) invited bidders to put forth bids for a larger project if they so wished. Presumably ADWEA is deciding whether 1.1 GW is a little too large for the project.

Now that the bids are in, they are subject to further review and verification before a final decision is made, however, it stands to reason that the winner is likely to be one of the three consortiums that put forth record low bids. These include Jinko Solar and Marubeni with the USD 0.0242 per kWh bid, Masdar, EDF and PAL with a USD 0.02533 per kWh bid and Tenaga and Phelan Energy with a USD 0.02598 per kWh bid.

Solar’s downward price trend

These prices sound almost unbelievable, but they are just the latest in a string of low price world records for electricity generated by solar PV. Previous to the Abu Dhabi tender, the record was USD 0.0291 per kWh set in Chile in August. And it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise in an industry that has seen prices drop over 80% in the last five years alone.

Additionally, as can be seen from the table, these projects expect to have an internal rate of return (IRR) of at least 7%, which suggests their viability. Of course, there are a number of factors involved in the price drop cumulating in this auction, but it is hard to look past the dramatic reduction in the cost of the technology, particularly solar cells.

It is also important to note that the price in Abu Dhabi cannot just be repeated in other markets, as a number of factors make this price viable, including state support and cost of materials and labor. Yet, it clearly represents a trend, which doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

Coincidentally, on the same day that the record-breaking bids were entered, financial think tank Carbon Tracker released a report that stated that renewable power generation costs are already lower on average worldwide than those of fossil fuels. Also stating that utility-scale renewable projects will continue to get cheaper.

“Policy-makers and investors really need to question out dated assumptions on technology costs that do not factor in the direction of travel post-Paris [COP21],” said Carbon Tracker head of research James Leaton. “Planning for business-as-usual load factors and lifetimes for new coal and gas plants is a recipe for stranded assets.”

The Abu Dhabi bid is a sign of the times when it comes to renewable energy prices, particularly solar PV. If prices in markets around the world continue to fall there will be no logical option but to turn to PV to solve some of the energy issues of the future. This comes with its own challenges, which should be addressed sooner rather than later.

“Markets are having to deal with integrating variable renewable on a growing scale,” commented Carbon Tracker senior analyst Matt Gray. “Rather than continue debating whether this energy transition is already occurring, it is time to focus on developing the opportunities in energy storage and demand management that can smooth the process.”


Financial Agreements of Sweihan Photovoltaic Independent Power Project in Abu Dhabi Were Signed

SHANGHAI, May 24, 2017 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — JinkoSolar Holding Co., Ltd. (“JinkoSolar” or the “Company”) (NYSE:JKS), a global leader in the photovoltaic (“PV”) industry, today announced that in a signing ceremony held at the Emirates Palace, the financial agreements for the debt and equity funding for the Sweihan Solar PV Independent Power Project (the “Project”) were signed by the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (“ADWEA”), Sweihan Solar Holding Company Limited (“Sweihan”), a joint venture between JinkoSolar and Marubeni Corporation (“Marubeni”), and a syndicate of international and local banks.

The agreements closed a US$870 million financing for the Project, an 1,177 MW (DC) solar PV project with a 25-year PPA signed with ADWEA. The Project is expected to reach commercial operation date in April 2019.

“Today’s Financial Closing is the culmination of 18 months of hard work, determination and commitment from many people, from multiple Abu Dhabi Government stakeholders, the international PV investor market, the international and local lending community and related advisors,” commented H.E Abdullah Ali Musleh Al Ahbabi, Chairman of ADWEA. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in making today’s milestone possible. However today’s event is just the beginning. Over the course of the next 2 years, the vision of the Sweihan PV Project will become reality.”

“The financial closing of the Sweihan Project is an important step-forward to energize one of the largest solar power plants in the world,” commented Mr. Xiande Li, Chairman of JinkoSolar. “We will continue to cultivate to the successful completion, operation, and maintenance of the Sweihan project with the highest standard, along with our partners ADWEA and Marubeni.”

Protecting Consumers Who Install Solar PV Systems

The article attached below, authored by Dr. Peter F. Varadi and first published on the website, addresses the issue of protecting consumers who install PV systems on their roofs or on local open spaces. Dr. Varadi, who co-founded a solar energy company, Solarex, in 1973, was a prime mover in developing quality control guidelines for the solar PV industry. With the near certainty that the rate at which such installations occur in the U.S. will increase in coming years, providing consumer protection information is a critical need. Dr. Varadi’s article is an important step in addressing this need.


Consumer Protection For PV Systems — Finally In The Limelight
May 22nd, 2017 by Guest Contributor

By Peter F. Varadi

More than 1.4 million homes in the U.S.A. are currently powered by solar, and 3 million additional households are estimated to install PV systems by 2021. Therefore, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) launched a timely educational campaign for consumers to understand the fundamentals of solar, to ask the right questions from the representatives of solar system installation companies, to compare the offers of solar companies, and to know how much electricity to expect from their PV system over the years. These guidelines also help consumers to understand the terms and costs of purchasing or leasing and of purchasing power from a solar electric system. SEIA also developed simple and understandable disclosure forms covering the full spectrum of residential transactions so that consumers would be able to protect themselves from a vendor when ordering a PV system to install on their property or for their community. SEIA’s president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said: “Solar is still a new power choice for millions of Americans, and it’s critical that we cultivate a well-informed customer base. By doing their homework and making use of these tools, consumers and stakeholders alike will feel confident and comfortable in the decision to go solar.” With these developed forms, SEIA achieved an excellent and extremely needed step forward in consumer protection for those 3 million additional households installing PV systems in the next 4 years.

The SEIA disclosure forms also advise consumers what information to request about system repair and maintenance, roof warranty and system guaranty. These well-constructed sections are extremely helpful for the consumer to select an installer and to obtain the best and least expensive solar roof for their home. But these sections of the disclosures form do not include what information consumers should ask to protect themselves from the frightening possibility that the guarantor – the installer – goes bankrupt or just simply goes out of business. Unfortunately, this is not a theoretical possibility.

Over the past year the number of home owners obtaining loans to buy their PV roof system has increased, and the business is shifting from large installers to regional and local installers. The financial stability of those is usually not very strong, and some of them may go out of business before their guaranty ends. This can happen not only with small regional or local installers, but also with national installers. Sungevity and Verengo Solar went bankrupt, and the very large NRG Home Solar informed people lately on their web site: “We are not offering new installations at this time, but we continue (for how long?) to serve our existing customers.” From this it is evident that bankruptcy etc. of installers is not a theoretical possibility but a real problem that many of the 3 million households who choose to power their home with solar in the next four years could face.

If the installer becomes bankrupt or goes out of business the guarantees given to the consumer become worthless. If thereafter the PV system develops a problem, the consumer will have to get it repaired on his own money. In general, the repair of the PV system is easy and not too expensive; however, the consumer will face a very big financial expense if the installer used low quality PV modules which stop functioning and must be replaced. As it is well known low quality PV modules are not fiction either.

To protect the consumer, SEIA’s disclosure forms should also include a request that the Installer provide the PV module manufacturer’s name and address and the type of module the installer will use for the solar system. It should also state the life expectancy and the power degradation during the life of the PV modules guaranteed by its manufacturer. Reputable manufacturers guarantee the solar module performance to produce a certain amount of electricity and its yearly degradation for 20 or 25 years. This information is needed to enable the consumer to go directly to the manufacturer if the installer goes out of business.

But to know the name of the manufacturer of the PV module is only one step forward to protect the consumer. Most consumers would not know which PV manufacturer is reputable, so the disclosure should have additional questions: “Was the PV module tested for quality and for safety?” If yes, “To what standards were the PV modules tested?” The answer to both questions is simple. The answer to the first question is either yes or no. This answer is clear to the consumer. The second is also simple to answer: 1) Quality: the PV module quality was tested to: IEC 61215 (or a newer version) and 2) safety: the PV module was tested to UL 1703 standards. This answer for the consumer is like it would be written in the Martian language. However, the PV industry needs to interpret this answer for the consumer as is done in many industries that have made it easy to recognize that a product successfully completed the required testing. These industries for this reason established “Quality Marks” (QM) to be displayed on the qualifying product. The consumer knows those Quality Marks, and seeing the QM displayed on the product indicates to them that the product’s quality and safety was tested according to the standards relevant to that product.

The disclosure form should ask if the UL safety QM is displayed on the utilized PV modules sold in the U.S.A. The answer to this question should be YES. If the answer is NO, obviously, the PV module may not be safe to use. The Underwriters Laboratory QM is well known to consumers, and they can recognize its QM:

It means that the product was successfully tested for safety, and the production was supervised by the Underwriters Laboratory.

The disclosure form should also ask if the PV Quality Mark is displayed on the PV module to be used. In the space for the answer it should be written: “PV QM presently is not available.”

Despite that the PV QM does exist, it is not being used. It will surprise people that SEIA, the European EPIA, and the Japanese JEPA supported the establishment and promotion of the “PV Quality Mark” which was introduced in 1996:

PV Quality Mark for PV systems
The reason it is not being used now is because several years later, after the year 2000, the PV Quality Mark was abandoned by SEIA, the European EPIA and the Japanese JEPA. Despite this abandonment, surprisingly, the PV Quality Mark still exists and is available, and its reestablishment would be extremely important for consumer protection. As the requirement that a PV module (or product) should be able to display the PV QM does exist, the re-introduction of its use would be simple. The story of its establishment, subsequent abandonment, and that it is still available and could be easily re-established is the following:

The prerequisite for a PV QM is that a PV module quality standard should exist. The PV module quality testing standard was developed in the U.S.A. In 1975, the U.S. government initiated a terrestrial PV research and development project, the aim of which was to help the terrestrial PV industry to reduce prices and produce reliable PV modules. That was the famous “JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) Block program.” Its design and its execution were crucial for the utilization of PV solar energy to become a success. In retrospect, this was one of the most important and useful government-sponsored PV programs, because without this program the expected failure of the PV modules would have destroyed the image and usefulness of PV.

Manufacturers selling PV modules to the JPL program were forced to adapt a “Quality Manufacturing” system which required periodic product retests and inspections, a forerunner of the presently used global ISO 9000 system which was started only 10 years later. This system also required the production of the PV module to a standard established by JPL, which became the basis of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) globally adapted PV module standard used today. The JPL program ended in 1985. The U.S. government never continued it. Furthermore, the U.S. government never instituted buying only products which were manufactured using a quality management system and tested to the JPL PV standard, as it did with the military “MilSpec” program.

The PV industry learned the JPL testing and manufacturing system and during the first decades realized that delivering high quality, reliable PV modules was advantageous for the industry and essential to get the confidence of customers. Failures would be detrimental for PV manufacturers. Therefore, as they did for the JPL program, they tested every module they sold.

In the 1990s the situation changed. Many new PV cell/module manufacturers started, and to compete and sell cheaper, they cut corners. To cut cost they abandoned testing, and the quality of their products became poor. That was the time when the quality manufacturers in the U.S.A. formed PowerMark Corporation to develop a PV certification system that customers should be able to differentiate between PV products manufactured using a quality management system and tested to the existing international standard from those which were not. Shortly after PowerMark started to work on a PV certification standard I had a meeting in 1995 with Charlie Gay who was the head of National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and supported very much PowerMark’s effort and agreed that PV certification program should be global involving also Europe and Japan. He asked me to try and to arrange this as I had excellent relations with key PV people in those areas. With the help of Wolfgang Palz of the EU Commission and Heinz Ossenbrink head of the PV program at the European Central Research Laboratory in Ispra Italy that PV trade associations SEIA in the U.S.A., the European EPIA, and the Japanese JEPA, supported the development and promotion of the PV certification system and the “Photovoltaic Global approval Program” (PV GAP) was started. The “PV Quality Marks” were established in 1996. This story is described by John Wohlgemuth:

“In 1996 a “PV Quality Mark” system was established which is now operated by International Electrotechnical Commission of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components (IECEE). The IECEE system for PV modules and components included product certification under IEC 61215 (or other relevant IEC standards) and IECEE certification of the manufacture’s quality management system (e.g., ISO 9000). The system also had requirements for periodic product retests and inspections. PV products qualified under the system could display a “PV Quality Mark” that customers should be able to distinguish them from untested and probably less reliable products. Initially several PV module manufacturers, including Solarex, TATA BP Solar (renamed recently as Tata Power Solar Systems Ltd.), ASE (Applied Solar Energy GmbH) and Websol (India), obtained IECEE certification on their products and displayed the “PV Quality Mark” on the product.”

The German Feed in Tariff (FiT) was first introduced in 2000, but after the second version was established in 2004, the “solar rush” started, and solar cell and module manufacturers and PV installers appeared like mushrooms after rain. The demand for PV modules became so great that some of the installers were buying anything which had only the PV module “look”. The PV Quality Mark system was abandoned because governments did not specify that only “quality” products could be used for government-supported projects. This is especially true in Germany, where the government did not specify that for customer protection only PV products with “Quality Mark” would qualify to participate in the FiT program despite the fact that in 2004 about 25% of the modules offered were untested. Only the World Bank supported the IECEE quality system and recommended that in the programs they supported, IECEE approved PV products should be used. Even in 2012 the situation was not better.

Today the situation is not that bleak. PV certification is taken seriously by the PV industry and government agencies participating in the IEC PV committee, and SEIA is doing what industry associations usually not do, launching a PV consumer protection program.

One of the reasons the “PV Quality Mark” program was not promoted properly because when it was transferred to IEC it was put under its existing IECEE program which was established by IEC for certification of many products, e.g. refrigerators, washing machines etc. The “PV Quality Mark” established by SEIA, EPIA, and JEPA was transferred to IECEE, therefore only very little attention was given to PV certification and QM.

After hard work by the NREL members of the IEC’s PV standards committee (TC-82), finally in 2016 IEC established IECRE, (RE=Renewable Energy) Conformity Assessment Scheme for Renewable Energy (including PV), and the PV certifications were transferred from IECEE to IECRE. It was anticipated that the applications for the first certifications would be made during the second half of 2016. However as of now, the “PV Quality Mark” is not yet transferred to IECRE. At present it is available free of charge still only from IECEE. (

The next step would be to also transfer the PV QM to IECRE, and manufacturers could obtain it after they received the PV certification from IECRE.

Conclusions and Recommendations

To protect consumers planning to install a PV system on their home or in their neighborhood from the event the installer becomes bankrupt or goes out of business, the SIEA disclosure forms should be amended:

Provide the PV module manufacturer’s name and address and the type of module the installer will use for the solar system.
State the life expectancy and the power degradation during the life of the PV modules guaranteed by its manufacturer.
Was the module tested to the quality standard IEC 61215 (or a newer version)?
Is the PV Quality Mark displayed on the module?
Was the module tested to the safety standard UL 1703?
Is the UL quality Mark displayed on the module?
The answer to 4) will be “PV QM presently is not available.” until the PV Quality Mark will be transferred to IECRE and it will establish the procedure by which the PV manufacturer can obtain it. Both of these actions should be accelerated.

For consumer protection it is also important that after the “PV Quality Mark” is available PV modules without the UL and “PV Quality Marks” and proper certification documents could not be imported into or installed in the U.S.A.
Peter F. Varadi –Sun Above the Horizon – Chapter 27 – Pan Stanford Publisher – 2014
It is reprinted by permission from: Peter F. Varadi – “Sun Towards High Noon” – Pan Stanford Publisher – 2017
Sarah Kurtz (July 2016). Defining bankability for each step of a PV project using IECRE, Intersolar North America.
Peter F. Varadi is the co-founder in 1973 of SOLAREX Corporation, Rockville, MD (USA), which pioneered the utilization of solar cells (PV) for terrestrial applications. By 1978 it had become the largest PV Company in the world. After it was sold to AMOCO in 1983, Varadi continued to work as solar power consultant, first for SOLAREX, later for the European Commission, The World Bank, NREL, and many other organizations. In 2004, Varadi was awarded the European Photovoltaic Industry Association’s (EPIA) John Bonda prize. Varadi is the author of two books, “SUN Above the Horizon – the Meteoric Rise of the Solar Industry” published in 2014 and “SUN Towards High Noon – Solar Power Transforming Our Energy Future” published in 2017 (

Renewable Energy and Jobs

The attached article was first published on the website edited by Karel Beckman. The article was stimulated by my strong belief that the job-creation aspects of renewable energy manufacture and deployment are receiving too little attention.


Jobs? Investing in renewables beats fossil fuels
May 19, 2017 by Allan Hoffman

For policymakers who are interested in job creation, investing in renewable energy is considerably more effective than investing in fossil fuels, writes Allan Hoffman, author of the blog Thoughts of a Lapsed Physicist and formerly with the U.S. Department of Energy. Solar and wind are powerful engines of job creation and economic growth.

Job creation is always a safe issue for politicians to address and it played a crucial role in our recent presidential election. Donald Trump achieved his unexpected upset victory over Hillary Clinton by appealing to disaffected workers in normally Democrat-leaning states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A primary focus of the Trump campaign was jobs in the manufacturing and coal-mining industries, where many workers had been laid off in recent years. Some people have blamed these job losses on Obama Administration policies, including support for solar and wind energy. What are the facts?

The fact that renewable energy, mostly in the form of solar and wind energy, is entering the energy mainstream, both in the U.S. and in other countries, is a reality. This is often attributed to their reduced costs and role in reducing carbon emissions. What is often overlooked or given minimal attention is that investment in the manufacture and deployment of these clean energy technologies creates many ‘green jobs’. What data supports this statement?

Already the largest source of renewable energy jobs in the U.S., solar energy will be a major factor in shaping our future energy system and creating new jobs

Data for the U.S. was available from the Green Jobs Initiative of the Bureau of Labor Statistics in annual reports for fiscal years 2009, 2010, and 2011. Unfortunately, budget sequestration brought an end to this program in 2013. Today other organizations are filling the gap, e.g. The Solar Foundation’s annual ‘National Solar Jobs Census’, monthly reports from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and occasional reports from other non-governmental organizations.

Largest employer

On a global basis the International Energy Agency (IEA) has become a source of jobs information, as has the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) through its Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Reviews. Two highlights of IRENA’s 2016 Review were that (a) global direct and indirect employment in the renewable energy industry had reached 8.1 million in 2015, a 5% increase over 2014, and (b) solar photovoltaics (PV) was the largest renewable energy employer at 2.8 million jobs, an 11% increase over 2014.

Solar Foundation data indicated that in 2016 the U.S. solar industry (8,600 companies) employed 260,00 workers. This was an increase of more than 20% for the fourth straight year and more than 178% since 2010. This outpaced the overall 2016 national jobs growth rate of 1.5%. California led U.S. states in solar employment with 100,050 jobs.

How do these numbers compare with numbers in the fossil fuel industries? In 2015 workers employed directly in oil and natural gas extraction numbered about 187,000, a decrease of 14,000 from 2014. Indirect related jobs number about 2 million, of which about 40% are at gas stations. Another fossil fuel industry that received considerable attention during the 2016 election was coal mining. It accounted for 68,000 jobs in 2015, continuing its decrease of recent years.

A different story

Looking ahead, what can we expect? As oil and natural gas prices increase from their recent lows, and fracking is therefore reinvigorated, the number of related extraction jobs should stay approximately level. This should continue as long as no cost penalty is imposed on carbon emissions, and Trump Administration support for maintaining and expanding fossil fuel extraction is strong.

Coal is a different story. Long the basis of more than half of U.S. electricity generation, coal’s share of that market is now down to about a third and heading lower. When combusted it is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, and automation of the coal digging process and competition from fracked and low cost natural gas has signaled the beginning of the end of the coal era and related jobs in the U.S. In addition, utilities are not adding new coal powered systems because their capital and operating costs are higher than for new natural gas, wind and solar power plants (data provided by EIA).

Solar and wind are no longer niche businesses

What are the prospects for renewable energy and related jobs in the U.S. in the future? As reported by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), at the start of 2016 jobs in the U.S. wind industry totaled 88,000, an increase of 20% over 2014. This was made possible by the installation of nearly 9,000 megawatts of new electrical generating capacity across 20 states, an increase of 77% over 2014. Wind accounted for 41% of all newly installed U.S. electrical capacity in 2015, ahead of solar (28.5%) and natural gas (28.1%). This growth will continue both onshore, where essentially all U.S. wind turbines have been installed to date, and offshore as this large resource begins to be tapped.

Impressive prospects

Two recent reports have documented the equally impressive prospects for solar energy’s growth. IRENA’s ‘Letting In the Light: How Solar Photovoltaics Will Revolutionize the Electricity System’ states that “The age of solar energy has arrived. It came faster than anyone predicted and is ushering in a shift in energy ownership.”

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported in a June 2016 report that “ and wind technologies will be the cheapest way to produce electricity in most parts of the world in the 2030s..” Already the largest source of renewable energy jobs in the U.S., solar energy will be a major factor in shaping our future energy system and creating new jobs. A recently published book Sun Towards High Noon: Solar Power Transforming Our Energy Future (Pan Stanford Publishing; Peter Varadi editor and contributor) discusses the jobs issue in detail along with other issues, including solar financing, markets, and quality control.

We must not be left behind as this energy transition unfolds in the next several decades

What conclusions can be drawn? If a primary national goal is to create jobs in the energy sector, investing in renewable energy is considerably more effective than investing in fossil fuels. Solar and wind are no longer niche businesses, their widespread use addresses global warming and climate change, and their manufacture and deployment are powerful engines of economic growth and job creation.

The U.S. Congress must recognize this and put policies in place that accelerate their growth. Other countries recognize this potential and are moving rapidly onto this path, some even faster than the U.S. We must not be left behind as this energy transition unfolds in the next several decades, but we must also not forget the people who will be displaced from their jobs in traditional energy industries.

Editor’s Note

Allan Hoffman is author of the blog Thoughts of a Lapsed Physicist. He is a former Senior Analyst in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and physicist by training.

Hoffman is a contributor to a new comprehensive handbook, Sun Towards High Noon, edited by solar pioneer Peter F. Varadi, which details the meteoric expansion of the solar (PV) industry and describes how solar power will change our energy future.

Trump On the Wrong Side of Energy History

The attached article was first published May 11, 2017 on the e-journal website, edited by Karel Beckman.


Trump on the wrong side of energy history
May 10, 2017 by Allan Hoffman

His most recent energy appointments show that president Trump insists on moving the U.S. away from clean energy. This goes against the global trend and will put this Administration on the wrong side of energy history, writes Allan Hoffman, a former official at the U.S. Department of Energy and contributor to a new handbook on the history and future of solar power.

Watching the Trump Administration evolve (I write this a few days after its 100 day anniversary) is a painful and scary activity.

As I wrote in a commentary for Energy Post on the Administration’s first week: “.. we do already know a few things: the next few years, with a Republican House, Senate and White House, will be a real test of the Republican Party, where party loyalty in a number of cases will come into conflict with national values and interests. Checks and balances among the three branches of the U.S. government, a pillar of our form of democracy, will be tested as never before in my lifetime. Not only was the recent election a test of the American people but the next few years will be a test of our democratic institutions as well.”

What are my views now that the first 100 days have passed?

Before Trump was elected, Simmons served as vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, a conservative think tank that espouses fossil fuel use and opposes the international climate agreement

On the 102nd day Yale University historian Timothy Snyder warned that “’s inevitable Trump will look to expand his power and take full control of the government by declaring a state of emergency sometime next year. The reason I think that is that the conventional ways of being popular are not working out for them.”

This is not the first time I have seen or heard such speculation, sometimes in the media and most immediately from an older friend who grew up in Europe during his most formative years. I take these comments seriously as I recognize that democracy is vulnerable to demagogues, as De Toqueville pointed out almost two hundred years ago, but cannot yet bring myself to believe that that is where we are today.

Unusually outspoken

My hesitation is bolstered by the behavior of our courts and our media in these past 100 days, two pillars of our democratic system. The courts have resisted what they have perceived as Trump’s unconstitutional initiatives on immigration and sanctuary cities, and the media have been unusually outspoken on Trump’s inconsistent statements and lies. Where I have been extremely disappointed is in the behavior of our legislative branch, controlled by a Republican Party leadership that has often put party and political advantage over national interest.

I also stated in the earlier commentary my belief that we would learn a lot from President Trump’s appointments to his cabinet, White House staff and to the 4,000 positions in the federal agencies and departments he controls. These have been, for the most part, highly discouraging.

While he has appointed a few experienced people to his cabinet and personal staff, his agency and departmental appointments have often gone to individuals who have expressed limited to no support for, and even hostility to, the missions entrusted to them. The case of Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency has been well documented.


Trump’s recent appointment of Daniel Simmons as the acting head of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is another case in point. It puts this important office in the hands of someone who has, according to the Washington Post, “… questioned the value of promoting renewable energy sources and curbing greenhouse gas emissions… ”

The Washington Post writes that “Before Trump was elected, Simmons served as vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, a conservative think tank that espouses fossil fuel use and opposes the international climate agreement that nearly 200 countries struck in Paris in late 2015.”

There is little doubt anymore that the world is moving inexorably to an energy system that relies less and less on traditional energy sources

The week before, Trump nominated David Bernhardt, a lobbyist who served at the Interior Department under George W. Bush, as Interior’s deputy secretary. Bernhardt was a partner at Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck, a consultancy representing oil and gas firms, mining companies and agricultural interests.

This is in sharp contrast to the policies of the Obama Administration which sought to move the country onto a clean energy path and places Trump and his administration on the wrong side of history. There is little doubt anymore that the world is moving inexorably to an energy system that relies less and less on traditional energy sources such as fossil fuels and nuclear, and toward a clean energy system that relies increasingly on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Many benefits

This is not an ideological position but one that recognizes the climate change and other environmental impacts of fossil fuel use, the costs and other difficulties associated with nuclear fission power, and the increasingly attractive economics and job creation potential of renewable energy technologies.

President Trump’s actions and appointments may affect the pace of U.S. movement onto this path, but he cannot stop it. Other countries are moving rapidly in this direction, recognizing the many benefits to be derived, and individual U.S. states will continue their encouragement of clean energy technologies. The U.S. Congress can enact policies that reverse this potential slowdown, or support it and take a chance that it will not be punished by American voters in future elections. Public opinion polls clearly indicate that this would be a foolish bet.

Editor’s Note

Allan Hoffman is author of the blog Thoughts of a Lapsed Physicist. He is a former Senior Analyst in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and physicist by training.

Hoffman is a contributor to a new comprehensive handbook, Sun Towards High Noon, edited by solar pioneer Peter F. Varadi, which details the meteoric expansion of the solar (PV) industry and describes how solar power will change our energy future.

About to be Published: A Comprehensive Handbook on Solar Energy

‘Sun Towards High Noon: Solar Power Transforming Our Energy Future’ will be published in paperback by Pan Stanford Publishing on March 22nd. It will be listed at $34.95 but a 30% discount is available along with free shipping when ordered online at (Promo Code STA01). The latest volume in the Pan Stanford Series on Renewable Energy, it was edited by Dr. Peter F. Varadi, a solar energy pioneer and author of an earlier volume in the series ‘Sun Above the Horizon: Meteoric Rise of the Solar Industry’ (see below). Peter is also a contributing author in this new volume, along with Wolfgang Palz, Michael Eckhart, Paula Mints, Bill Rever, John Wolgromuth, Frank Wouters, and Allan Hoffman.

The broad scope and comprehensiveness of the book can be seen in its detailed Table of Contents reproduced below:

1. Meteoric Rise of PV Continues 1
1.1 Sun above the Horizon 2
1.2 Sun towards High Noon 6
2. New PV Markets Sustaining Mass Production 9
2.1 Utilization of the Terrestrial Solar Electricity 10
2.2 Solar Roofs for Residential Homes 13
2.3 Grids, Mini-Grids, and Community Solar 24
2.4 Commercial PV Systems 32
2.5 Utility-Scale Solar 43
2.5.1 Current Status 47 Concentrating solar power systems 47 Concentrating photovoltaic systems 50 Flat-plate photovoltaic systems:
fixed and tracking 51
2.5.2 Future Prospects 54
2.6 Important Large Market: Solar Energy and
Clean Water 56
2.6.1 Desalination and Disinfection: Introduction 56
2.6.2 Desalination 56
2.6.3 Disinfection 62
2.6.4 Conclusion 63
2.7 Quality and Reliability of PV Systems 64
2.7.1 Module Qualification Testing 65
2.7.2 Module Safety Certification 67
2.7.3 Module Warranties 68
2.7.4 Failure Rates in PV Systems 70
2.7.5 Module Durability Data 71
2.7.6 ISO 9000 72
2.7.7 IECQ and IECEE 72
2.7.8 To Further Improve Long-Term Performance 73
2.7.9 International PV Quality Assurance Task Force 75
2.8 Storage of Electrical Energy 83
2.8.1 Introduction 83
2.8.2 Why Is Electrical Energy Storage Important? 83
2.8.3 What Are the Various Forms of Electric Storage? 85
2.8.4 Applications of Energy Storage and Their Value 92
2.8.5 Capital Costs of Energy Storage 93
2.8.6 Concluding Remarks 94
2.9 Solar Energy and Jobs 95
2.9.1 Introduction 95
2.9.2 What Are the Facts? 95
2.9.3 Concluding Remarks 100
3. Financing 101
3.1 Financing of PV 102
3.2 Subsidies and Solar Energy 104
3.2.1 Introduction 104
3.2.2 What Forms Do Energy Subsidies Take? 104
3.2.3 What Is the History of US Energy Subsidies? 105
3.2.4 What Has All This Meant for Solar PV? 108
3.2.5 Concluding Remarks 110
3.3 Wall Street and Financing 111
3.3.1 Policy Drivers for Solar Energy Financing 111 The importance of policy to financing 113
3.3.2 Federal Policies 114 Federal RD&D 114 Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act 117 Investment tax credits 118 Commercialization and deployment 120 Government purchasing 122
3.3.3 State and Local Policies 123 Renewable Portfolio Standards and RECs 123 Solar Set-Asides and SRECS 123 Net energy metering 124 Leading state examples 124
3.3.4 International Policy for Solar Energy Financing125 Policies of individual governments 126 International agencies 129 Multi-lateral development banks 131 Impact of NGOs on government policy 132
3.4 Solar Market Segmentation and Financing Methods 136
3.4.1 Utility-Scale Solar Project Financing 136
3.4.2 Commercial & Institutional Rooftop Financing 136
3.4.3 Community Solar 137
3.4.4 Residential Rooftop Financing 137 PPA model 138 Inverted lease 138 Loan-to-ownership 139
3.5 Solar Project Financing 140
3.5.1 Traditional Power Generation Financing 140
3.5.2 PURPA and the Development of Non-Recourse
Financing 140
3.5.3 Conditions Required for Project Financing 142
3.5.4 Overall Capital Structure: Equity, Tax
Equity, and Debt 143
3.5.5 Tax Equity Using the Investment Tax Credit 144
3.5.6 Bank Loans 145
3.5.7 Institutional Capital 146
3.5.8 Project Bonds 147
3.6 Capital Market Investment in Solar Securities 148
3.6.1 Equity Market Investment in Solar Companies 148
3.6.2 Yieldcos and Other Portfolio Companies and
Funds 150
3.6.3 Green Bonds 153
3.6.4 Securitization 155
3.7 Summary 157
3.8 Glossary 158
4. Present and Future PV Markets 161
4.1 The Global View of PV 162
4.2 The Present and Future of Neglected PV Markets:
Africa and the Middle East 164
4.2.1 Introduction 164
4.2.2 Africa 166
4.2.3 Middle East and North Africa 183
4.3 The Present and Future Market in the Americas 192
4.3.1 The United States of America 194
4.3.2 Canada 204
4.3.3 Countries in Latin America 205
4.4 The Present and Future Market in Europe 208
4.5 The Present and Future Markets in Asia 220
4.6 The Present and Future Markets in Australia
and in Oceania 231
4.7 Global Community Unites to Advance Renewable
Energy: IRENA 236
4.7.1 Start of IRENA 238
4.7.2 Hermann Scheer
4.7.3 IRENA’s Roots and Early Days 241
4.7.4 Institutional Setup 246
4.7.5 Hub, Voice, Resource 247
4.7.6 IRENA’s work 248
4.7.7 The Way Forward 252
4.7.8 Glossary 254
5. The Impact of Solar Electricity 255
5.1 The Impact of Solar Electricity 256
5.2 In the Twilight of Big Oil, in Retrospect, PV Was
a Missed Boat 259
5.3 PV and the Brave New World of the Electric Utilities 267
6. Outlook to the Future 281
About the Contributors 291
Index 295

The value of this new book is captured in the two back cover comments:

“This comprehensive and timely book provides the reader with a very thorough technical, regulatory, and financial overview of the global solar (PV) industry. Featuring internationally eminent contributors from the who’s who of solar industry experts, this book offers insights, analysis, and background on all the key issues facing this rapidly growing industry. It will be an invaluable reference and resource for scholars, investors, and policymakers dealing with the emerging solar power phenomenon.” (Branko Terzic, Atlantic Council, Former Commissioner/U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission)

“The long-term welfare of people on our planet depends on an energy system heavily dependent on solar energy. This solar energy handbook presents a well-documented, comprehensive, and insightful view of solar energy’s past, present, and future. Its preeminent contributing authors include solar energy pioneers, visionaries, and practitioners who bring a wealth of experience and insights into solar energy markets, financing, policy, and technology.” (Karl R. Rabago, Executive Director/Pace Energy and Climate Center, Elisabeth Haub School of Law, Pace University)