Solar achieves price parity in Europe

Renewable energy-powered electricity prices are the same as fossil fuel-powered energy in three countries; U.S. renewable energy prices falling

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The plans conceive that all new energy could be powered by renewable sources by 2020, about 80% to 85% of existing energy could be replaced by 2030, and 100% of it could be replaced by 2050.

The Stanford researchers said the 50-state plans would stabilize energy prices, create jobs, minimize air pollution, and reduce global warming.

"Because the costs of fossil fuels rise over time, whereas the fuel costs of [renewable] energy resources are zero, [wind, water and solar] energy in 2050 will save the average U.S. consumer $3,400 per year compared with the 2050 energy costs of fossil fuels to perform the same work," said Mark Jacobson, director of Stanford University's Atmosphere & Energy Program, in a paper on the topic.

Price parity in Europe

The GPM by Eclareon monitored competitiveness in seven European countries with retail electricity prices for residential consumers (PV systems of 3kW) and commercial segment (PV systems of 30kW).

Photovoltaics (solar PV) is already price competitive against retail electricity in the commercial sector of major European markets, according to Ecareaon.

PV costs
The evolution of retail electricity rates for commercial consumers (Source: Eclareon)

PV can be used both by distributed residential or commercial users and utility scale power plants. The costs shown are for utility scale photovoltaic power plants

The report, sponsored by three renewable energy companies -- SunEdison, BayWa GmbH, and Gesternova -- covered 19 cities in 10 countries (Australia, Brazil, U.S., Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain and the U.K.).

According to the study, the cost of PV power generation in the last quarter of 2013 as expressed by the LCOE (Levelized Cost of Electricity) in the commercial segment decreased in all of the cities analyzed.

While the cost of renewable energy has gone down, high installation prices in Latin America still prevent PV technology from being competitive against grid electricity there, according to Eclareon's report. At the same time, the majority of Latin American countries have been facing retail electricity price decreases.

In contrast, European countries such as Germany, Italy, and Spain have reached grid parity. France is the only exception of the analyzed markets in continental Europe, as high irradiation levels and relatively low installation prices are offset by low electricity rates there, the report stated.

The GPM report also found that the overall results for the commercial sector are not as positive as those for the residential segment. In essence, the lower LCOE in the commercial segment, driven mainly by reduced system prices and other factors such as tax shield benefits, do not compensate for the much lower retail electricity rates available for commercial consumers.

"In countries such as Brazil and Mexico, self-consumption is being encouraged by an effective regulatory mechanism, which allows prosumers to feed their excess generation into the grid for later consumption," said Eclareon partner David Perez in the report.

"On the other side of the spectrum, poor regulation can hinder the self-consumption market, as is the case of Spain, where the latest policy changes includes a fee on on-site self-consumption and allows for no compensation for the excess PV generation fed into the grid," he added.

Regulatory support
Regulatory support for PV consumption in Europe and Latin America (Source: Eclareon)

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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