The Solar Electric Power Association, Washington, D.C., has issued a challenge to the U.S. electric utility and solar industries to collaborate to meet solar-electric growth forecasts despite a struggling global economy. Prior to the economic downturn, analysts were predicting the U.S. could see an increase in solar capacity of more than thirty fold between 2009 and 2016. If realized, this level of solar deployment would represent more than 60 billion kilowatt hours of solar generation, 440,000 permanent jobs, and more than $230 billion in investments and associated economic development benefits.

“With the United States’ growing electricity consumption and the need for climate-change solutions, the utility and solar industries must work together to find innovative, win-win business scenarios that result in significant investments in solar power,” says Julie Hamm, SEPA’s executive director. “In the years to come, we need an economically driven SEPA ISSUES SOLAR CHALLENGE solar-business environment in which utilities, solar-power companies and electricity consumers find mutual financial benefits from the capacity, energy and environmental solutions offered by solar electricity.” To meet the growth forecasts, SEPA calls for utility ownership of solar-power projects, increased utility engagement in solar markets and development of innovative approaches.

In other SEPA news, the 2008 Solar Business Achievement Awards were announced. Winners were selected in five categories based on efforts to expand solar energy as an essential part of the solution to the growing global energy crisis. Winners are: Utility CEO of the Year: Ralph Izzo, chairman, chief executive officer and president, Public Service Enterprise Group, Newark, N.J.; Solar Portfolio Leadership: Pacific Gas and Electric Co., San Francisco; Innovation in Solar Program Design: Sacramento Municipal Utility District for its SolarShares Program; Community Outreach and Public Awareness: We Energies, Milwaukee; and Partnering for Success: NV Energy (formerly Nevada Power Co.), Las Vegas, MMA Renewable Ventures, Baltimore, SunPower Corp., San Jose, Calif. and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. For more information, visit www.