Mexico is in pole position in the race for PV grid parity

The Eclareon PV Grid Parity Monitor, which will be updated in each U.S. academic semester, evaluates how close each of the 14 cities studied across seven countries – Brazil, Chile, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain and the U.S. – is to residential grid parity in terms of LCOE, and also how regulation in each of the regions will assist or handicap grid parity.

The criteria Eclareon used to assess photovoltaic grid parity took the form of a scale ranging from one to six, where one represented "very far from grid parity" and six represented "full grid parity". Meanwhile, it assessed national regulatory frameworks for PV self-consumption on a scale ranging from "very poor" to "excellent".

Although Germany’s three-bar rating ("Close to grid parity") for proximity to grid parity in Berlin, and four-bar ("Partial grid parity") score for Munich compare favorably to scores of two and three in the Brazilian cities of Sao Paolo and Itacarambi, respectively, Germany’s three-star rating for regulation was outshone by a top rated four-star showing from Brazil, thanks to its recent net-metering legislation.

The assessment of Germany was critical of changes to the EEG’s (Renewable Energy law) photovoltaic FIT program, which eliminated the premium formerly paid to encourage self-consumption, and lamented the fact the FIT paid for small-scale systems to feed excess power into the grid is now lower than the cost of retail electricity in the country.

Mexico is the initial poster boy in the grid parity stakes with Hermosillo, like Las Palmas in Spain, boasting a top rating of six bars, or full grid parity, because the highest photovoltaic LCOE is lower than the standard price of retail electricity, or the lowest peak electricity cost. Mexico City was rated as a five-bar "grid parity" city, meaning the lowest photovoltaic LCOE – rather than the highest – was used for comparison.

This result was again mirrored by Spain, where Madrid was rated "grid parity", but Mexico’s perfect four-star regulatory regime – an accolade also shared by California and Brazil – meant it topped the rankings.

The top rating is achieved in countries where the net metering incentive is equal to the cost of retail electricity and was secured by Mexico’s Medicion Neta regime, which allows solar households to accrue credits in KWh against their electricity bills.

Spain was given the lowest one-star, or "very poor" rating, since the embattled government has yet to pass the draft Balance Neto legislation into law, meaning there is neither a solar support mechanism like FIT, nor an incentive for self-consumption.

With Los Angeles and San Francisco, the cities studied in California, Italy (Rome and Palermo) and Chile (Santiago and Copiapo) completed the line-up.

The measure of proximity to grid parity was in part based on the narrowing of the gap in price terms between the two sources of electricity – PV LCOE to retail electricity prices – from the first semester of 2009 to the present.

Eclareon defines PV Grid Parity as the "moment when PV LCOE becomes competitive with retail electricity prices, assuming that 100% of the electricity is self-consumed instantaneously." It points out, however, that "since 100% of instant self-consumption is not likely to happen in residential systems, net metering/net billing or equivalent mechanisms will be crucial to achieve economic feasibility for this kind of installations."

It further adds that "in order to make the development of a PV self-consumption market possible, policymakers should concentrate their efforts on reducing administrative barriers and creating or improving regulatory mechanisms."