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Solar Without Subsidies

Market Update 2012: Installations Grow to 38.3 GW in 2017 as the Market Goes Global
April 5th, 2012
Lux Research
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After recent explosive growth capped by a 66 per cent surge to 26.5 GW in 2011, solar installations will grind to a near halt this year — adding a mere 0.4 GW, totaling 26.9 GW of new installations — while industry revenues drop from $110 billion in 2011 to $92 billion in 2012 due to crashing prices. However, new installations rebound to 38.3 GW in 2017 as the industry learns to navigate a global market fast losing its subsidies, according to a Lux Research report.A supply glut, caused mainly by Chinese manufacturers, speculation of incentive cuts in Europe and the end of the 1603 Cash Grant in the US, fueled the sharp growth in installations last year.Lux Research analysts ran a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis in 156 separate geographies, accounting for 82 per cent of the world’s population, calculating internal rates of return, to determine the viability and competitiveness of solar in each market. That model and methodology is part of the Lux Research Solar Demand Forecaster. Among their conclusions:
  • Emerging markets more than quadruple in size. Emerging markets will be both a battleground for suppliers and a source of great strength with South Asia accounting for the majority of growth, rising from 1 GW in 2011 to 4.5 GW in 2017. However, ASEAN, Africa and South America take the reins from 2017 to 2022, hurtling toward gigawatt status.
  • Utility-scale application segment grows. In large emerging markets like China, utility-scale solar will gain as conditions favor fewer, larger-scale projects that allow more control over financing and regulatory factors. This segment will grow from 6.3 GW globally in 2011 to 13.8 GW in 2017.
  • Oversupply still a possibility. Even the boom of 2011 was not sufficient to utilize all of the world’s module capacity, which reached 50 GW and pushed prices down to $1/W. With China’s 12th Five-Year plan calling for major expansions in solar capacity, global markets will still see strong downward price pressure.
  • Securitization boosts smaller installations. Asset-backed securities are spurring growth of the small-scale segment in the U.S. residential and commercial markets. Securitization and “renewable bonds,” which have been tested in the past by SunPower (in Italy), and Wells Fargo (in New Jersey), are likely to see widespread growth in 2012 or 2013. Expect major commercial banks like Citigroup to lead this effort.

The report, titled “Market Size Update 2012: The Push to a Post-Subsidy Solar Industry,” is part of the Lux Research Solar Systems and the Lux Research Solar Components Intelligence services.About Lux ResearchLux Research provides strategic advice and on-going intelligence for emerging technologies. Leaders in business, finance and government rely on us to help them make informed strategic decisions. Through our unique research approach focused on primary research and our extensive global network, we deliver insight, connections and competitive advantage to our clients. Visit for more information.

United States Solar | Year 2011 Review

Solar Feed-in-Tariffs coming on board in America


MARCH 23, 2012

As with any new technology and when big corporations feel they are threatened they put up resistance. Problem is big corporations control Washington DC. Solar panel feed-in-tariffs are going to be the next big thing in this country. It is small business start ups and local governments though that cut the widest swath to success. In America Florida, Sacramento, California, and Palo Alto, California are saying we can’t wait and are pushing forward past the Feds.

Palo Alto California is calling its solar panel program a CLEAN program (Clean Local Energy Accessible Now) rather than what they considered the awkward term “Feed-in Tariff” or FIT.

It’s a pilot program for the City of Palo Alto Utilities the first year is capped at 4 megawatts and meant for medium-sized commercial rooftops with a minimum size of 50 kilowatts per installation. The FIT is applicable to solar panel only technology, although other renewable energy sources could be considered later on. The city will pay $0.14 per kilowatt-hour for 20-year contracts.

Palo Alto is arguably the heart of Silicon Valley, home to dozens of venture capital firms and thousands of new companies, and armed with a startup and innovation-friendly culture fueled by its immediate neighbor, Stanford University. The city itself has about 26,000 electric meters and a peak load of approximately 180 megawatts.

The program limits itself to medium and large commercial solar rooftops in the interest of keeping workload issues to a minimum in the early stages of this solar panel program.

The $0.14 per kilowatt-hour figure was based on the city’s avoided cost. Here’s the calculation:

$0.070 for energy
$0.034 green premium
$0.006 local capacity value, essentially avoided distribution grid costs
$0.019 avoided transmission access charges (TAC), an amount paid in California for every kilowatt-hour that is delivered from the transmission grid.
$0.006 avoided transmission losses
Total: $0.1355 per kilowatt-hour

So, the $0.14 per kilowatt-hour FIT price includes a $0.0045 premium and was agreed upon as a number that would attract developer interest. The cost of a fully subscribed program would be $29,000 per year; the city council estimates that the cost to the utility customer would be $0.01 per month. At this scale and modest cost, the city gains experience with the permitting, interconnection, metering, and billing process while developers gain experience in working with Palo Alto.

Craig Lewis, the Director of the Clean Coalition, a distributed generation advocacy group, attended the February 7 Palo Alto City Council meeting and commented that he saw this as “a good program, because it is constrained and not open to residential rooftops.” He added, “It delivers the trifecta of being cost-effective, timely, and environmentally sustainable, and the solar panel pilot program is designed for success by avoiding pitfalls like dealing with tax complications of residential-level projects.”

Jon Abendschein, Palo Alto’s Resource Planner, believes that $0.14 per kilowatt-hour is a price that will attract developers to the program.

Lewis added, “There are dozens of places around the United States developing the bling needed for CLEAN programs, and Palo Alto just set the stage for this critical movement to unleash Clean Local Energy Accessible Now.”

Detractors of feed-in tariffs have claimed that the prices can never be set at a proper rate and that auction mechanisms are a more equitable solution. Others have argued that having no solar panel subsidy at all is the right solution.

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