Volume 10 cites, as organizational support activities, programs that involved the utilities, state and local governments, international cooperation, and labor, law, or environmental issues. Surprisingly, the environmental issues received little attention in the early development of the solar heat technologies program. Most of the emphasis was on energy conservation and security. Today the linkage between energy consumption and the environment is the critical issue driving energy policy, at least until the next energy crisis.
In this author’s view, the involvement, or noninvolvement, of the utilities was the most important failure of the solar thermal commercialization program. The program certainly recognized the need to involve the electric utilities in the programs for the development of solar thermal power, but failed to include the utilities in an important way in the commercialization of solar heating and cooling. Although this was consistent with the public attitude toward utilities in the early 1970s, it was not a winning strategy. Had a conscientious effort been made to involve the utilities in the solar commercialization program in the beginning, the incentive programs could have been quite different, perhaps rewarding performance rather than sales. Instead, the feeling in the country was that the utilities were profiteers who would only turn the solar movement to their selfish interests, who would try to “meter the sun.” Some utilities did undertake solar programs, but in many states they were barred from participation as owners or providers of energy services.
The international programs for commercialization of solar energy have been more prominent in the photovoltaics field than in solar thermal technologies. Solar thermal technologies have been included in programs such as the Committee on Renewable Energy Commerce and Trade (CORECT) and earlier trade missions, but usually the emphasis has been on PV. There have also been a number of international collaborative research programs conducted under the auspices of the International
Energy Agency or by means of bilateral agreements. Although these activities were not usually commercialization activities, they are discussed in volume 10. At one time the international research programs were regarded as giveaway programs and were mostly terminated or restrained by the Reagan administration. Now that the situation is reversed, and the R&D centers of some solar technologies, such as solar thermal building technologies, have moved abroad, one wonders why the United States does not take greater advantage of the opportunities for international cooperation to improve our technology base.
1. Carl-Jochen Winter, Lorin L. Vant-Hull, and Rudolf Si^ann, eds., Solar Thermal Research and Technology (Spring, 1991); Thomas B. Johansson, Henry Kelley, Amulay K. N. Reddy, and Robert H. Williams, Renewable Energy Sources for Fuels and Electricity (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1993); International Energy Agency, Renewable Sources of Energy (OECD/lEA, 1987).