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Sunrun CEO on the Bright Future of Solar Energy


By Lynn Jurich

In 2015, consumers and government leaders demanded cleaner, cheaper energy. As an industry, we heard you and we’re delivering.

Here’s why I believe the future of energy is already here, in 2016 and beyond.

The world is looking for climate solutions

Change starts with a conversation. In 2015, the dialogue around climate change picked up steam – from domestic and global policymakers to the private sector, to our friends and neighbors. It’s clear that climate change is the pressing challenge of our generation and immediate action is critical. Solar is meeting this growing demand to decarbonize our energy sources.

During the Paris climate talks in December, governments from around the world solidified a monumental agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. That’s enough to avoid dangerous temperature increases in our atmosphere. As nations and people examine how they can advance this agreement, many will turn to the sun. At Sunrun, we have believed in the power of the sun all along and see more Americans starting to believe the same. This trend is inevitable. Solar continues to grow as part of our nation’s energy mix. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar accounted for nearly a third of all new electricity generation capacity in the U.S. in the first three quarters of 2015.

Following the international community’s ambitious agreement, U.S. leaders from both sides of the aisle echoed this sentiment by extending the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) for the next five years. This is the solar industry’s only federal incentive, and extending it helps level the playing field against decades of fossil fuel subsidies; it also allows Sunrun to grow more quickly.

Global and national decisions will pave the runway for solar to continue to prove its value in the next few years and beyond. It’s clear that the world needs and wants clean energy – and solar in particular – to succeed.

The future is here ... It's just more distributed

The world is decentralizing, and the energy industry is no different. Smart, local technology brings benefits at many levels: for consumers, the grid and the economy in the form of jobs.

Rooftop solar saves homeowners money on their electricity bills. Producing solar on rooftops also helps the whole community: Solar increases grid resiliency and allows utilities to reduce infrastructure costs. Many industries are decentralizing with benefits to all stakeholders, and energy will be no different. The value that solar delivers is too great to turn back.

The states that are making this step to move their infrastructure to the 21st century are seeing the benefits. The opening of Sunrun's new corporate office in Denver provides a great example of how pro-business and pro-solar policies foster growth at the state level. Sunrun worked closely with Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado state officials in 2015, and over the course of the next few years we anticipate hiring up to 800 new employees from the community. Partnerships like this enable the residential solar industry to keep growing and reach new milestones.

Sunrun will continue to advance its local presence in key markets by partnering with states and local leadership who see the potential in solar. And we will keep advancing solar’s value so we can bring this benefit to homeowners, the grid and the economy in more places. We commend policymakers like South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who opened new solar markets in 2015, and encourage more to follow suit this year.

Consumer choice will propel us

Consumers continue to take the power back from monopolies. That’s a good thing.

In the last five years, the “as-a-service” economy has exploded. From companies like Uber and Lyft to Airbnb, consumers now have an abundance of choice in nearly every industry. Their freedom to choose will elevate the clear leaders in each category based on who gives them the best customer experience and value.

Solar is no exception. We’re no longer a niche industry, and many companies are competing for customers. Growth like this is what happens when new technology intersects with drivers of change like the need to shift to clean energy, to modernize our infrastructure and to give choice to consumers. Ultimately, consumers will be the winners, with companies like Sunrun delivering more value and the best service to them.

Lynn Jurich, co-founder and chief executive officer of Sunrun, looks to the future of the energy industry and the various factors catalyzing clean energy adoption. Sunrun is the largest dedicated residential solar company in the United States.

Images courtesy of Sunrun

3p Contributor

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