EPIA interview: PV is already providing energy solutions

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What are the main conclusions from the report "Connecting the Sun"?

As it becomes a mature and mainstream technology, PV will need to integrate seamlessly into the electricity grid. This will require some new perspectives from grid operators, from policymakers and from the PV industry itself. But the challenges are not insurmountable. As this report shows, solutions to enable a high penetration of PV are achievable. And in many ways, PV is already providing these solutions – meeting a growing share of electricity demand at increasingly competitive cost without creating a strain on the European power system.

What is absolutely necessary to achieve large-scale PV integration into the electricity grids in Europe?

With a more diversified, variable and electricity-intensive energy mix, the future European electricity system will have to be more interconnected, more flexible and more decentralized. This transformation of the electricity sector will require certain grid enhancements, both at distribution and transmission level. These should integrate the increasing importance of distributed generation, including PV.

What needs to be done from the policy side to support the competitiveness of PV?

Policy support, such as feed-in tariffs and the removal of administrative barriers, has been crucial to the development of PV. It will continue to be so as the competitiveness gap with conventional energy sources closes. No one expects this kind of support to last forever. But we should also remember that fossil and nuclear continue to receive subsidies, which, unlike subsidies to renewable energy sources, are often hidden. Until there is a fair and level playing field for all energy sources, we need policy makers to support PV with smart, sustainable programs and binding targets.

Are there limits to PV integration in distribution networks?

DSOs [distribution system operators] already manage high penetrations of distributed generation; there are no technical limits to large-scale PV integration. Still, it will be important for DSOs to implement "smart strategies" making the best use of already existing PV systems capabilities. Enabling a better match between production and consumption will help reduce system congestion.

Will transmission system operators be able to manage system operations safely with high shares of PV and Wind?

Yes. PV has a strong seasonal match with wind (since PV is able to meet more peak demand in summer, while wind is more productive in winter) and an average daily match (since PV produces during the day with a peak around midday, while wind produces more during less sunny hours). These two energy sources together can provide up to 45% of Europe’s electricity needs in 2030.

Will high shares of PV cause huge excess generation?

No. Interconnection, storage and DSM solutions will allow full exploitation of PV electricity at the European level by 2030. Furthermore, PV shows a perfect complementarity with daily storage and wind generation enabling a higher contribution of variable renewables in the electricity mix.

The findings of the report will be presented by Marie Latour, Senior National Policy Advisor of EPIA, at the Conferencia de la Industria Solar – España 2012 on 18 October 2012 in Madrid, Spain. The conference offers key information on the solar sector in Spain as well as in Latin-America. In addition, the latest news concerning this year’s changes in regulation and their implications for the Spanish solar industry will be discussed.