PV solar gaining interest from utilities

12 Aug 2010

EU and US utilities explore the integration of photovoltaics into their energy generation portfolios, research reveals.

Gartner and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) have carried out a study that posits how utilities are starting to show more interest in procuring photovoltaic (PV) solar power generation systems.

Between December 2009 and February 2010, Gartner and SEPA conducted a survey of 134 utilities in Europe and the US to determine their requirements and objectives for integrating PV solar systems into their energy generation portfolios. A telephone survey of utility firms in the US, Germany, Spain, Italy and France was supplemented by an online survey in the US.

The survey has found that PV is one of the leading technologies for near-term renewable energy for utilities, which view onshore wind and biomass as the other key near-term renewable energy sources.

Utilities in Germany are currently paving the way in their use, with 75pc of the German utilities surveyed using PV as part of their energy resource portfolio. An additional 15pc of utilities in Germany are considering adding PV to their portfolio within five years.

In terms of the US, 44pc of those surveyed said they had PV solar energy resources, while another 33pc are considering using PV solar power generation within five years.

Commenting on the report, Alfonso Velosa, research director at Gartner, said: “PV solar systems are a cost-effective means of adding distributed and central generation sources.

“System costs have decreased by over 30pc since 2008. This has lowered the cost of electricity from these systems and improved their competitiveness relative to other renewable energy sources. PV systems are attractive to many organisations and individuals as they can be designed relatively easily, in a wide range of sizes and to fit in many different locations.”

The survey found that renewable energy requirements and government requirements are the top two global factors behind the utilities’ decisions to integrate PV supply into their energy portfolios.

“Overall, the survey indicated that federal policy and state regulatory levels have strong influence over utility procurement decisions and strategies,” said Mike Taylor, director of research at SEPA. “Although price declines will continue to make PV more competitive with retail and wholesale electricity pricing, it is unlikely that the importance of policy will decline significantly in the near-term.”

Adding how US utilities will continue to have strong influence over compliance options for meeting national or state-level renewable portfolio standard (RPS) obligations, Velosa said while EU utilities feel a similar influence from policy, their mechanisms and processes for acquiring PV generation are very different.

“This points to a hazard for the PV industry. If policy does not adapt to the changing pricing environment and other budgetary pressures, there may be a backlash against PV and other renewable energy sources.”

Additional details about the Gartner report User Survey Analysis: PV Solar Is Gaining Momentum With Utilities can be downloaded here.

Further information from the SEPA report is available here.


Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic