The Panel on Renewable Energy Financing provided a fantastic discussion on the current trends in the renewable energy development industry. Featuring Tony Clifford, CEO of Standard Solar, Matt Fedors, VP at Leaf Clean Energy, and James Mackey, Executive Director at NextEra, the conversation focused on the interplay between investor-owned-utilities (IOUs), developers and the Federal, State and Local governments. Each panelist came from a different perspective, James Mackey represented a large developer as part of an IOU, Tony Clifford, a commercial scale solar installer, and Matt Fedors a project and company investor.
The panel covered various topics, ranging from utility roles to international development. Panelists discussed the need for collaboration between utilities and developers, citing that the development of these renewable energy projects is dependent on the attitude of the utility. On the finance side, the panel touched on the concept of bankable power purchase agreements (PPAs), with proper suppliers, and the role of EPC companies coming into play for a lot of new technologies. As for the role of the government, the panel was divided between delivering a national renewable energy standard or simply eliminating market barriers. The panel ended on a high note with Tony Clifford predicting that solar will be cost competitive with one third of states’ retail energy by 2016. Ultimately though, the panel agreed, it all comes down to natural gas prices, the future of renewable energy financing will depend on the price volatility of the natural gas market.