By Jon Doochin, CEO of Soligent. Originally posted on soligent.net and republished with permission. You can find this story here.
In many ways, 2020 seems like the worst year for a multitude of generations of Americans. That said, 2020, for better or worse, has accelerated us into the future. We can achieve the following from 2020 and expect it for private and small commercial solar systems in 2021.
3 trends in the solar industry from 2020
A year of dramatic acceleration – I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of America hasn’t even figured out a fictional movie in which the world wears face masks, large layoffs destroy families, and economic shutdowns affect entire states and industries. However, this brings with it significantly accelerated trends. With the convergence of technological services and internet bandwidth enabling a seamless digital and remote work experience, the trend is growing to find high-caliber talent at the most competitive costs around the world. While the introduction of a certain type of software has often been a deprioritized luxury for local businesses, it has quickly become a necessity, changing the adoption rate of a technology trend.
Additionally, consumers need a sense of security in their lives, and with fires, cyclones and power outages across the country, the acceptance curve for energy storage is increasing. Additionally, employee incomes have risen as stock markets hit record highs, home purchases grew faster than expected, and the national savings rate hit a 45-year high. Finally, in 2021, it saw the biggest cumulative solar and storage ratings, public stocks, and a growth in investors viewing green as a fast-growing alternative to oil and gas. These factors, with the considerable possibility of further stimulus money, position 2021 for a strong year.
A year of demand and production shocks – From oversupply in the first half of 2020 to leveling but healthy stocks in the third to fourth quarters, there were supply fluctuations in 2020. Not to mention the tariffs for bifacial solar panels and the general COVID-related demand shocks in both directions. Now, at the end of the year, with demand growing since the summer, the world is facing all-time high COVID infection rates, ports are overloaded and holding products, and the solar ITC is taking another step down.
However, solar installers are well prepared for the ups and downs. Technological progress in the manufacturing sector has continued to develop at the same rapid pace. Battery prices are falling, the size of solar modules is increasing and becoming cheaper at the same time, and the inverter roadmaps continue to be brought up to the promised performance.
A year of giving and education – One of the joys of 2020 was the support of people from all walks of life. At the start of this pandemic, we at Soligent conducted weekly training sessions with thousands of installers to help them navigate this new future. We’ve taught everything from receiving funds from the Paycheck Protection Program to balancing cash flows in a crisis to tips for selling in a virtual world. We have extended the credit lines and supported those in need. We sent Christmas presents to children in need. We saw that we were not alone and everyone stepped in to help when they could. I couldn’t be more proud of so many people in our energy industry.
Sneak peek: 3 trends in the solar industry for 2021
Geographical and product expansion – The fastest growing states for solar were once driven by incentives and climate. Today the land is growing across the country from Florida to Texas to Illinois and beyond. Costs have fallen, installers are becoming more efficient, and manufacturers are moving towards full wallet portfolios that allow them to get more spend for installers and consumers. This trend will continue to accelerate in 2021.
Demand and supply are increasing – We expect solar demand to increase with storage and EV supplements and low interest rates. Nevertheless, there is the possibility of an oversupply of modules in 2021, as large solar manufacturers are temporarily increasing to their highest capacities and exceeding demand.
Tax credit is still in play – With or without the tax credit extension, we expect 2021 to be a big year for Solar. If the tax credit goes down as planned, we will have the traditional rush of installing solar panels by the end of the year. If the tax credit is extended, 2021 will continue to matter to residential plumbers as falling costs and continued work-from-home plans drive demand.
The truest summary of last year is that clean energy is here to stay. This is a larger secular trend that is economically beneficial for the United States and GDP positive for a world that needs GDP. Solar is a multiplier of money – when a homeowner pays less for energy, there is more disposable income that fuels the economy. Plumbers are local businesses that pay salaries and create jobs, which in turn stimulates the local economy through spending and wealth creation. Through public markets and IPOs, solar manufacturers, distributors and others enable the public to participate in the macroeconomic growth trend in space. In hindsight, it’s 20/20, but in hindsight we see the secular trend and the benefits of local jobs for GDP.