Cyprus to expand PV via net metering

Cyprus’s government has adopted a new plan to promote the further expansion of solar PV energy in the country.

Specifically, in a meeting last week the Cypriot cabinet decided to promote the installation of 5,000 rooftop PV household systems via net metering totalling 15 MW, additional rooftop photovoltaic systems also via net metering for Cypriot businesses totalling 5 MW and 5 MW of solar photovoltaic parks.

Of the 5,000 household net metering installations, 450 low-income families will be paid €900 per kilowatt to install up to a 3 kW net metering system, according to the government plan. The subsidy equates to half the cost of each installation.

This is the second time the Cypriot government has promoted net metering for solar PV. In June 2013, it also decided to fund rooftop PV system installations for 2,000 low-income households via the country’s net metering program. Similarly, the program included a €900-per-kilowatt subsidy for up to 3 kW per household, but it was later extended to include a further non-subsidized 3,000 rooftop household systems totalling 9 MW, and rooftop net metering systems for commercial and industrial buildings totalling 10 MW.

Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, the minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, said Cypriots responded to the net metering program overwhelmingly, adding that of the 5,000 household installations the government had allowed in 2013, there were 4,898 systems approved and about 2,800 already installed.

However, only about 300 of the 2,000 residential net metering systems for low-income homes announced to be subsidized last year have been installed. This means low-income households are struggling to participate in the net metering program even when half the system costs are covered by the government. Perhaps as a result, the energy ministry has decided to reduce the number of subsidized systems from 2,000 last year to just 450 in this year’s initiative, providing greater opportunity for non-subsidized installations that seem to materialize faster.

Overall, Cyprus’ Energy Regulatory Authority told pv magazine that net metering installations have currently reached about 10 MW, while the country boasts a total photovoltaic capacity of 33 MW.

The government, Lakkotrypis said, is committed to expanding the net metering program as a means to reduce the electricity costs for Cypriots households and businesses.

Solar PV can reduce the cost of energy in Cyprus

The government’s aim to reduce electricity costs via energy from solar PV does not only refer to net metering installations, though.

In May, the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) for two ground-mounted solar PV parks of 1.5 MW each. The first park was installed at Skarinos, in the county of Larnaca, and is owned by APV Sunlight Ltd, which will sell the generated electricity to the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) for €0.095 per kilowatt hour. The second park was installed at Augoros, in the county of Famagusta, and is owned by a private investor who will also sell the generated power to EAC for €0.098 per kilowatt hour.

What is striking about these installations is, the energy ministry said, is that “the above selling prices are lower than the current cost of electricity by conventional fuels.”

And this is not a remote case. The two solar photovoltaic parks installed at Larnaca and Famagusta are part of a tender launched by the Energy Ministry in 2013 that selected 23 projects of various sizes totaling 50 MW. All of these projects will generate power at prices much lower than the €0.1540 per kilowatt hour EAC currently pays to produce electricity from fossil fuels.

Local press has reported that a third solar park, also part of last year’s tender, was electrified in May at Tseri, near the capital Nicosia. The 3 MW at Tseri, developed by Greek construction company Aktor, is Cyprus’ largest PV park to date, and is going to sell electricity at EAC for €0.086 per kilowatt hour.

The Ministry of Energy said it is pushing all Cypriot institutions involved to speed up the administrative process in order to facilitate the building of all PV plants tendered last year as soon as possible.

Cypriot politicians have asked the government to bolster the PV sector by allowing more net metering installations and encouraging the building of new photovoltaic parks via the tender practice applied last year. These policies can reduce the cost of electricity in Cyprus and help the country decarbonize, they argue.

Some critics have attacked the governmnet for its support of concentrated solar power (CSP) plants, arguing that the recent approval of two CSP parks, 50 MW each, would lead to significantly higher electricity prices than those achieved in last year’s solar PV auction. Furthermore, the CSP projects led the government to reduce the quota for solar PV and other less expensive renewable energies plants, they add.

Grid limitations

Despite the push for more renewable energy, the country continues to grapple with the problem of how much Cyprus’s grid can absorb. The University of Cyprus is currently leading a research study analyzing the impacts of integrating net metering photovoltaic technology into the grid.

The University of Cyprus, together with the EAC, the Energy Regulatory Authority (CERA), the Environment Ministry and professional services firm Deloitte, is hosting a presentation and discussion of net meeting in Cyprus on Wednesday. The event — “Smart Net Metering for Promotion and Cost-Efficient Grid-Integration of PV Technology in Cyprus” — will be held at the university campus in Nicosia.

“The University of Cyprus study and additional reports provided by external technical consultancies provide us the necessary information upon which we will decide on the grid’s capability to absorb large quantities of intermittent power,” CERA’s photovoltaic systems officer told pv magazine. Currently, he added, “CERA complies with the government goal of 192 MW solar PV capacity by 2020. This is the goal the Cypriot Government has also submitted to the EU institutions.”