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Renewable Energy Vision
Expert analysis on the most pressing issues facing the renewable energy sector in the U.S and abroad from ACORE staff, members and supporters.

A Q&A with Tony Clifford, CEO of Standard Solar

Published on 12 Dec 2013  |   Written by    |  

ACORE recently released its new report titled “Renewable Energy In the 50 States: Northeast Region.” The report provides a detailed market and policy overview of states located in the Northeast region of the United States. ACORE was lucky enough to have a select group of its members participate in a December 3rd press conference surrounding the release of the report. During that time, I had the opportunity to talk about renewable energy with five ACORE members including CEO of Standard Solar, Tony Clifford.

 Noah: Tony thanks for taking time to do this. To start off, tell me a little bit about Standard Solar. 

Tony: Standard Solar is a solar developer and EPC contractor doing projects ranging from residential through commercial and small utility-scale. We are currently doing business in 11 states and a bit in the Caribbean and Central America. We’re headquartered in Rockville, MD, just outside of Washington, DC.

Noah: Since you’re based in D.C. let’s talk about DC and Maryland’s renewable energy markets if that’s okay with you.

Tony: Works for me.

Noah: Let’s start with a look at D.C.

Tony: Well our nation’s capital is certainly an interesting place for renewable energy. There are no utility-scale projects, which is a result of D.C.’s urban environment. However, that same urban environment provides a lot of open rooftop space for rooftop solar PV, which is a burgeoning market in D.C.

Noah: What makes it a burgeoning market?

Tony: A very strong and healthy Renewable Portfolio Standard. Right now it’s set to meet 20% of electricity demand with renewables by 2020. DC also has solar energy carve-out – 2.5% by 2023, with very solid SREC incentives, which are proving very good for our business. D.C. also has a solar rebate program for residential customers that are $0.50/Watt for residential PV, up to $10,000 while solar thermal’s rebate is 30% of total costs up to $2,000. Non-residential rebates total $0.50/watt up to $10,000 for PV and 20% for solar thermal systems, up to $6,000. Approximately 2.3 MW of new PV projects were installed in DC in 2012.

Noah: Any recent policy developments that will help boost that number?

Tony: Good question. DC recently approved community net metering and has attractively valued SRECs, which will definitely boost annual installation figures and allow the industry to grow rapidly in the coming years.

Noah: It’s really no secret at this point that net metering policy is crucial to deploying more rooftop solar. There’s also a lot of attention surrounding the issue. Can you speak a little about the opposition to net metering?

Tony: There has been a lot of opposition to net metering across the country since Edison Electric Institute released a study calling solar and net metering a “disruptive challenge.” In the past few months there have been a lot of organized efforts to roll back net metering in states like Arizona and Colorado. Truthfully, it’s a reflection of the fact that solar PV is getting close to cost parity all over the country. That’s a scary thing for utilities.

Noah: Let’s switch gears. What’s going on with renewable energy in Maryland?

Tony: Maryland has become a national leader on renewable energy. Maryland has a goal of obtaining 20% of its electricity from renewables by 2020 and as a result the industry is taking off. At the end of 2012, Solar PV accounted for 116.8MW of the state’s energy capacity. From the previous year that is a 227% increase, which is just tremendous. Commercial scale projects are also quite abundant in the state.

Noah: That is some serious growth. What about some other renewable energy technologies? It seems like Maryland is taking some big steps toward tapping its wind energy resources.

Tony: It certainly looks like it. Right now the state has 120MW of wind power, but that could grow exponentially in the next decade. With the passage of the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, the state is incentivizing 500MW of offshore wind capacity. I believe the target project is set to be approximately 200MW. That would more than double the amount of wind power on Maryland’s grid.

Noah: Quite incredible. Any other thoughts on Maryland’s market moving forward?

Tony: Well Maryland has one of the most effectively managed SREC markets in the country and the state routinely meets its RPS targets, which I think will continue. There’s also been a recent decision to remove the “pilot study” status of Maryland’s aggregate net metering program; we will likely see the expansion of net metered systems for cities, counties, universities and other qualified entities in the state. And I also believe there will likely be legislation introduced in the upcoming legislative session to expand the state’s RPS in support of Governor O’Malley’s climate change goals.

Noah: Thanks for your time, Tony.

Tony: It’s been a pleasure.

Tony Clifford is CEO of Maryland based Standard Solar. Tony is a Board member of the Solar Energy Industries Association and also serves on SEIA’s Executive Committee. Tony has authored numerous industry reports and was awarded the 2011 Industry Leader Award by the Maryland Clean Energy Center.


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