Solar energy firm renews call for industry-wide product standards
ICP Solar, a Montreal-based manufacturer of products based on advanced solar technology, is urging the solar energy industry to establish standards of self- regulation in order to take full advantage of the opportunity for explosive growth in solar energy. Factors influencing this potential include increased concern for the environment and rising costs of conventional energy, combined with advances in solar technology.
In 2003, the solar electric industry grew by 36% worldwide, and is currently the fastest-growing global source of energy, says ICP. In Canada, early adopters are using solar energy after years of industry- and government-sponsored education and millions of dollars in investment.
Nevertheless, there remain significant challenges to consumer confidence which need to be overcome. In order to make informed decisions, consumers need reliable, easy-to-understand guidelines for comparing the efficiency of solar to other traditional energy sources. Furthermore, misleading performance claims are endangering the legitimacy of the solar industry.
"The Canadian solar industry is at a pivotal moment," said Sass Peress, ICP Solar CEO. "If the public's confidence is lost due to an absence of standards and misleading performance claims by some disreputable manufacturers, it will be very difficult to ever recover. As an industry, we need to help consumers understand what they are buying." Therefore, he continued, "I invite my colleagues and competitors to enact and enforce self-regulation standards. It is critical to the future of the solar energy industry," Peress stated.
His company has been working toward standardization of the solar industry in Canada through its involvement with the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA). This industry organization believes that industry-approved standards will protect all parties-consumers, retailers, purchasers-and accelerate broad market acceptance.
To this end, CanSIA has asked the federal government to support industry certification in Canada, but says it has not yet received a clear response. In the meantime, it says, all manufacturers of products sold in Canada should agree to independent testing and reporting on product performance and other standards.
As an example, ICP Solar commissions independent testing and certification of all its products before they are introduced to the marketplace. The company also benchmarks its products against "real world" conditions, rather than the artificial (and forgiving) environment of the test lab.
To enact real change, however, ICP says retailers must insist on selling only solar energy products which are certified according to industry-wide standards. (The Canadian Standards Association has made inroads in this area, with standards published pertaining to solar collectors and solar-powered domestic hot water systems; see the CSA Web site, www.csa-intl.org.) More information is also available on the ICP Solar or CanSIA Web sites, www.icpsolar.com or www.cansia.ca.