Paula Mints has grown from being a market analyst who couldn’t pronounce photovoltaics to one of solar’s lead market researchers. As the founder of global market research firm SPV Market Research, she’s created a successful career and business that she loves.
Listen to our latest edition to learn what it takes to be a solar market researcher, hear Mints’s global solar market insights and discover how she plans to help struggling women find a new life in solar.
What does it take to be a good market analyst?
It takes curiosity, persistence, focus, attention to detail and a love of what you’re doing. People think it’s all about being on stage and making announcements and having people quote you, but it’s sitting in a room somewhere gathering data; it’s a research discipline. You have to love the investigation. You need the ability to work alone a lot and to love it.
If you’re someone who is satisfied when they get a few answers, or doesn’t know the difference between asking someone “What do you think of…?” versus “What did you pay for…?” you’re probably not going to be a very good market researcher. You have to be firmly focused on the first rule of market research, which is to eliminate your own bias so you can provide an analysis that actually does some good. What do good are facts, and the interpretation of those facts without bias
And it does take a little bit of courage to stand up and tell everyone that essentially this is what the facts are saying when they don’t want to hear those facts; I mean I’ve been heckled.
With your global focus on solar research, what can the United States learn from other countries?
Quite frankly, many other markets have learned from us. The United States is one of the pioneers, and we shouldn’t forget that. The world took at look at Europe and feed-in-tariffs and then instituted, often cases poorly, feed-in-tariff-type models that crashed and burned. The United States actually didn’t do that. The United States has renewable portfolio standards that other countries could learn from. Virtual net metering is really a U.S. thing. So it’s not what we can learn from them, but what we can learn from each other in this huge solar experiment.
What insights can you share from your years of research that maybe we don’t always hear, or focus on?
Looking back over four decades of data and trends, I would say that we’re not out from needing government support. Solar grows where there is either a mandate, an incentive or a subsidy for it. All energy is subsidized at some point; we are not alone in this.
We continue over time to be chasing some low price point that has nothing to do with cost, misunderstanding cost. The cost of manufacturing is made up of a whole bunch of prices for inputs—downtime, etc. We consistently misunderstand the price function and we consistently set goals that are arbitrary and artificial and actually harm us.
On the upside, I love the optimism. Even though you’re running a business, you know you’re doing something that’s right for the world. That is important and it keeps our industry running. Over four decades, that’s never changed. This belief that they’re doing the right thing is one of the things that gets me up in the morning.
Check back monthly for a new episode of Ask a Solar Vet, in which editor Kathie Zipp brings you the unique perspectives and insights of those who have spent more than a decade in solar.