Yuri Horwitz, co-founder and CEO of Sol Systems, says he and his company expect solar power to be the dominant form of new electricity generation by 2022. In a report dated February 15, 2018, it lists three reasons why it believes solar will be ascendant in the US market over the next 4 years even though the Trump administration has imposed new tariffs on imported solar cells and solar panels. Despite those headwinds, Yuri says the solar industry “will develop, construct and finance $25 billion to $30 billion in solar assets. It will build 20 to 25 percent of the country’s new electricity capacity, and will continue to employ hundreds of thousands of people.”
The three factors it says will drive solar power forward are: strong public support, rapid technological evolution that drives down costs and increases efficiency and significant and increasing support for the solar asset class by institutional investors.
A poll by the Pew Research Center last year found that two thirds of Americans support developing clean renewable energy resources. By contrast, only 27% said they support expanding the production of fossil fuels. The polling data shows that Independents and Democrats are the strongest supporters of renewable energy, with Republicans more inclined to prefer more development of fossil fuels.
A recent poll by the Gallup organization found similar results. Its data show 61% of respondents prefer more conservation efforts and only 31% are in favor of expanded fossil fuel exploration and production. In a similar Gallup poll last March, Americans expressed a clear preference for “alternative” energy (71%) over fossil fuels (23%).
Gallup found 59% report that protecting the environment is more important than protecting traditional energy suppliers. More than 70% favored development of alternative energy over producing more oil, gas, and coal. In addition, the majority of respondents favored higher emissions standards for motor vehicles and enforcement of the regulations already in place.
Yuri believes such a clear preference for renewable energy will more than offset the anti-renewable agenda put in place by Donald Trump and his henchman, Scott Pruitt, the peripatetic administrator of the EPA.
In a free market system, price is always a dominant factor and Yuri believes utility-scale solar is already competitive with natural gas and will only get more so in coming years. “Solar power-purchase agreements continue to fall in price, and many PPAs executed in 2017 for assets to be delivered in 2018 and 2019 were executed at a levelized cost of energy below the price it takes to support a new natural gas plant,” it writes.
Add in that the cost of natural gas is projected to increase in the next 2 to 3 years as production within the US falters while the cost of solar is expected to continue its decline and the case for solar dominance becomes even stronger.
Yuri then launches into a detailed analysis of the stock market as it exists today and concludes that investors view solar development favorably in part because those power purchase agreements are long-term contracts which bring predictability and stability to investment decisions and in part because many large institutional investors are under pressure to find investment vehicles that promote sustainability. As a result, the cost of capital to finance utility-scale projects is expected to remain low or go lower. Decreased capital costs for renewables will make them even more competitive against nuclear, coal, and natural gas.
Capitalism cares not one whit for sentiment or saving polar bears. It cares about the bottom line. And that is exactly why Yuri believes solar power has the inside track when it comes to new electricity generation in the short and long term. If that happens to match up with prudent environmental policies, so much the better.