Solar Latest News Round-Up Issue 58

This issue covers:

REA’s annual review of UK solar sector

The UK solar market must “unlock” deployment on commercial buildings if the technology is to continue its cost-reduction path to a subsidy-free future, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has claimed.

Hailing solar PV’s record for exceeding expectations, the REA’s Annual Renewable Energy View report highlights the uncertain future the technology faces in the UK given the government’s subsidy reset which has seen the Renewables Obligation and feed-in tariff closed and cut respectively.

With solar all but excluded from future Contracts for Difference rounds, the REA has stressed that for solar to continue to reduce its installation costs it must unlock deployment on buildings in the commercial sector.

The report has also sized the UK solar market, stating that the number of those employed across the whole UK solar supply chain reached a high in 2014/15 of 16,880. This comes despite a gradual reduction in the number of active companies, falling from 2,200 in 2011/12 to 2,005 last year.

Sector turnover rose to just below £2.5 billion last year (£2,477 million), however it is widely expected that this – and employment numbers – will fall as the industry continues to contract in the face of falling subsidies. Full details here

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Growth in US renewables

US renewable energy sources set a series of records for domestic electrical generation during the first quarter of 2016.

The US Energy Information Administration's (EIA) latest, "Electric Power Monthly" report shows net electrical generation from non-hydro renewables (biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) increased by 22.9% compared to the first quarter of 2015.

Within the figures electrical generation from utility-scale solar thermal and photovoltaics increased by 31.4% to 6,690 thousand megawatt-hours and comprised 0.69% of total electrical output. The EIA also estimates that distributed solar photovoltaics (e.g., rooftop solar systems) expanded by 35.2% and accounted for an additional 3,146 thousand megawatt-hours.

Combined, utility-scale and distributed solar accounted for over one percent (1.01%) of total generation, compared to 0.72% a year earlier.

Overall, the main source of renewable energy generation continues to be wind, which grew 32.8% to set a new record of 6.23% of total generation. Details at www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/

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China’s aims to reduce solar PV costs

Declining costs in China’s solar industry could allow the government to reduce prices offered to solar PV developers by more than a third by 2020 and see PV plants competitive with coal within a decade.

A Bloomberg report in Renewable Energy World said it should be possible to allow prices to be cut to 0.5 yuan (U.S. 8 cents) a kilowatt-hour in four years. This year developers got at least 0.8 yuan a kilowatt-hour for photovoltaic power generated for approved projects.

China surpassed Germany last year as the nation with the most installed solar-power capacity, in the process making renewable energy more competitive by driving down costs. Solar power in China soared more than seven fold since 2012 as the country has sought to boost use of solar panels to cut carbon emissions and boost home consumption of renewable power.

In addition, it is reported that reductions in construction costs have already prompted a cut in the preferential rates provided to developers.

However, china’s National Energy Administration says moves to reduce costs will only occur if the government eliminates “abnormal costs” on developers such as idle solar power capacity and delays of subsidies for renewable power plants.

It says that rapid installations have left grids struggling to absorb the influx of renewable power plants, reducing profits of developers. About 52 percent of solar power sat unused in the first quarter in China’s north western region of Xinjiang, marking the highest idle rate in the nation, according to data from, the NEA, which said Gansu province has the second-highest amount of idle capacity.

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Global solar growth aims spreads to Armenia

Another indication of the global growth of solar PV comes with new legislation being passed in Armenia to promote the development of solar PV.

The Armenian Parliament has approved measures that are intended to provide new impetus for the development of solar energy in private and industrial segments of the Armenian economy.

According to the forecasts of the Armenian Fund for Renewable Energy and Energy Saving, by 2020 the country should produce up to 8 percent of all consumed energy from alternative resources. This total should be achieved with the commissioning of solar plants with a total capacity of up to 50 MW, with the amount of investment close to US$ 80 million.

Armenia’s Energy Ministry said that the potential capacity of the country in terms of solar power production is 3,000 MW, which is enough to not only meet domestic demand, but also provide the whole Caucasus region with energy. Full details of the story are here

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Saudi Arabia revives its solar PV ambitions

Saudi Arabia is seeking to revive its solar-power program, scaling back more ambitious targets it set four years ago.

Reports say the kingdom plans to install 9.5 GW of renewable energy under its Vision 2030 program, about a quarter of the previous goal. The new target is about 14 percent of the country’s current generating capacity and is achievable because of a plunge in the cost of solar PV, government officials said.

“Solar should be the fundamental solution for Saudi Arabia,” Ibrahim Babelli, the country’s deputy minister for economy and planning, told reporters at a conference in Dubai.

The goals reflect work by Prince Mohammed bin Salman to overhaul the economy of Saudi Arabia, selling off a stake in the state owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co. to diversify away from fossil fuels as a primary revenue source. The desert kingdom relies on oil and natural gas for almost all of its power generation, sapping what it earns from crude it could export.

 

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