Having ridden the ups and downs from the regulations on the investment tax credit and production tax credits over the past 12 years in renewable energy, it's been a long while since I've been to a conference marked by so much unified optimism towards the industry!
Last week, about 27,000 renewable energy professionals descended upon Anaheim, California, for the re-branded RE+ Conference (now expanded from the original Solar Power International to include many sectors within renewables). One might even call this event an Inflation Reduction Act coming-out party! I don't think there was a disappointed attendee there; instead, we saw a fully energized crowd. One might even call this event an Inflation Reduction Act coming-out party! Hats off to the planning teams at Solar Energy Industries Association and Smart Electric Power Alliance for a really well run event.
This sunk in for me: the outgoing SEPA President & CEO, Julia Hamm, said that RE+ is now North America's biggest energy conference — not biggest solar conference or renewable energy conference — but the biggest energy conference. Bigger than any fossil fuel based conference. Remember when they called solar and wind alternative energy?! Proud to be part of this growth and development.
Industry Problems Loom
As an industry, we have our work cut out ahead of us to clear some major issues in order to leverage the $370B spending to combat climate change with clean energy and electric vehicles. Being a lifelong headhunter, my main concern about industry growth is obviously human capital. We've had a shortage of talent for the last 22 months and it's only gotten tighter in 2022. I expressed these concerns during my panel discussion at RE+ Pathway to 1 Million Workers: Tools for Scaling Workforce Growth, but also, along with my fellow panelists, provided some solutions. This issue, however, will continue to keep me up at night!
Along with staffing shortages across renewable energy, we need a proactive approach to fixing supply chain, shipping, and transmission problems so we can get back to scaling our industry. Earlier this year, we saw how import tariffs and shipping costs really put a damper on solar construction. And anyone developing projects in the PJM grid in the mid-Atlantic region knows the struggle of getting a project into the queue, let alone securing the necessary approvals to carry it through.
These challenges are not a secret. Abby Hopper, President & CEO of SEIA, pointed them out during the SEIA Member Breakfast at RE+ and I know that she and her team are hard at work to resolve these issues. As an industry, we need swift resolution so we can continue to attract venture capital and private equity money, and get on to spending the IRA money.