According to the Energy Information Administration, rooftop solar electricity — the economics of which often depend on government incentives and mandates — accounts for less than a quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s power generation.
And yet, to hear executives tell it, such power sources could ultimately threaten traditional utilities’ ability to maintain the nation’s grid.
“We did not get in front of this disruption,” Clark Gellings, a fellow at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit arm of the industry, said during a panel discussion at the annual utility convention last month. “It may be too late.”
Advocates of renewable energy — not least solar industry executives who stand to get rich from the transformation — say such statements are wildly overblown. For now, they say, the government needs to help make the economics of renewable power work for ordinary Americans. Without incentives, the young industry might wither — and with it, their own potential profits.