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Private Investor Howard Wenger Envisions An All-Electric Future

By Media Office Staff

The solar industry has an annual growth rate of more than 50 percent with more than 250,000 workers, but that is not enough for clean power executive, entrepreneur and investor Howard Wenger.


He discussed his life goal of making solar power mainstream in an Oct. 2 talk at the California Energy Commission.


The 1970s energy crisis influenced Wenger to study alternative energy at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he learned about solar energy.


“This had a profound effect on me. I call it my North Star moment,” said Wenger. “By North Star, what I mean is, what is your passion in life? What is the thing that’s going to guide your life?”


Wenger’s North Star was making solar energy the standard in California and the world. He told the Energy Commission audience that early in his career he thought that commercializing photovoltaics can change the world.


He has more than 30 years of experience in the solar and utility power field, including serving as president and CEO of SunPower Corporation. He currently invests in companies and organizations to enable a clean, all-electric future for buildings and transportations, powered by the sun. Earlier in his career, he joined Pacific Gas and Electric Company because he believed that utilities were key to scaling solar and making the technology commercially viable.


From his experience, Wenger explained that technology, policy and economy are key aspects to truly catalyzing solar.


“When you have the three perfectly tuned, you can create basically a revolution and a mass market,” Wenger said. “That’s what happened with solar. We had the right policy, the right technology that created the economics, and the right demographic in California to create a mass market.”


He envisions an all-electric future, which starts with installing electric chargers everywhere.


“Without the analytic foundation that comes from this commission, none of this would happen,” Wenger said. “Every vision starts with a seed. You have to water the seed and nurture it and make it grow. We’ve done that with solar. Now, we’ve got to make it with EV charging, advanced energy efficiency, connectivity to the digital network with all things that consume electricity and produce electricity.”


Listen to Wenger's talk in the media player below or via the California Energy Commission Spark Podcast.

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