The tragedy of the commons is an economic parable that refers to greed.
The tragedy of the solar commons refers to continued selling of modules and deployment of projects for market share with the goal of being on a top ten list as the biggest developer, or installer, or the number one manufacturer without healthy margins and without consideration that these activities leave the entire industry out of balance and vulnerable.
The global solar industry has been low margin all along the value chain for so long that profit has paradoxically become anathema to it. The tragedy of the solar commons is that an industry with the core mandate of ameliorating climate change, bringing electricity to populations far from the grid and providing electricity independence to everyone appears focused on keeping itself unprofitable.
The result of low margins is continued reliance on the very incentives, subsidies and mandates that the solar industry insists it a) does not need or b) wants to be free of. The solar industry will continue to hold itself hostage to government intervention as long as it pursues a strategy of being the least expensive source of electricity. This is irony at its best as if subsidies were removed from conventional energy and if the conventional energy infrastructure had to be built anew every time it was deployed … well, the playing field would not be even, it would likely shift to solar and other RE. One reason for this shift is low running costs. The fuel for solar generated electricity is the sun. Solar system components mine the sun. DG solar – power at the point of use – shifts control to the system owner.
The argument for shifting to solar as a primary electricity source requires a shift in the electricity buyers understanding of just about everything to do with how they source their electricity.
The good news is that the trend is towards clean energy and this trend will not abate despite the current political climate. The global solar industry has time to change focus, work together and build a quality, profitable solar industry that offers value to participants and stakeholders all along its value chain.