The pv magazine weekly news digest

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Nostalgia for the years of your youth is common enough but hankering after 90s tunes of the likes of Nirvana, Alice in Chains and… erm… Right Said Fred is altogether different from basing investment decisions on 20-year-old market data.

Unfortunately, investors worldwide have shied away from solar stocks in recent months as the oil price has fallen, in the mistaken belief cheaper oil-fired power makes PV a less attractive offering, at least that is what Raj Prabhu, CEO of market research company Mercom Capital, thinks is behind the sustained falls in PV stocks since May.

Prabhu says oil-fired power stations are relatively few and far between in the advanced economies of the U.S., China and Western Europe in the power landscape of 2015 and so, no matter how low the price of oil dips, the infrastructure is not in place for the black stuff to supplant solar for generating energy. Nowadays oil is chiefly used as a transport fuel, unlike back in the day, when Deeply Dippy was storming the charts.

The other way of looking at the falls in solar stocks is that this is a good time to invest in solar shares, after all, as Prabhu points out, with panel prices falling and impressive installation figures expected again this year, the market fundamentals are good, although pv magazine adds the cautionary note that solar stocks, like the fortunes of bald-headed baritone-guitar bands from the 90s, may go up as well as down.

Net metering battle lines drawn up

The battle between power companies and solar households in the U.S. is set to continue in the months ahead with 16 states considering changes to the value attributed to solar from net metering and altering net metering caps.

Net metering allows households with solar rooftops to reduce their energy bill by an amount directly related to how much power they generate and feed back into the utilities’ grids.

MIT researchers say the injection of PV power into grids helps reduce the consumption of costly energy at times of peak demand, benefiting all bill-paying customers.

Utilities say solar households benefit unfairly from having panels because the costs associated with incorporating distributed generation into their grids are born by all customers, leaving non-solar households footing the bill for PV power they don’t enjoy any benefit from… although only one study has found empirical evidence of this… a study by a consultant with strong ties to the oil and gas industry.

Our correspondent probably hit the nail on the head when they said: "Utilities may be reacting more to the threat to their business model than out of concern for customers." Perish the thought.

The battle is set to rage on but with Mississippi recently becoming the 45th state to introduce net metering, having found a net benefit for ALL consumers, the debate sounds increasingly like the death wail of traditional power company business structures.

The most entertaining aspect of the story was the name of the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center publication which published news of the latest utility-solar skirmishes, step forward the 50 States of Solar report. Sure to be racy reading, that.

EU raises the glass … floor

There was a victory for EU ProSun Glass, this week in its solar glass guise, with the news the EU has doubled the import duties applied to Chinese-made solar glass.

The most startling revelation associated with the decision was that the previous duties applied – up to 36 per cent anti-dumping penalty plus up to 17 per cent countervailing duty – had not seen any rise in Chinese solar glass prices since they were introduced in May 2014.

Now the European solar manufacturing industry, which seems to basically amount to Germany’s SolarWorld, will wait to see what impact the new duties, ranging from 17-75 per cent, will have, if any.

The market being disputed is worth around €200 million ($153 million), according to Reuters or, in other words, The Fairbrass Brothers scrapping over a comb.

It’s SolarWorld again

And while we’re on the subject of SolarWorld, you have to hand it to the big man, the company restructuring driven through last year by CEO Frank Asbeck to turn the hugely loss-making German manufacturer into a resurgent global player appears to have done the trick.

SolarWorld’s figures for the second quarter and first six months of the year show Asbeck’s strategy of betting all, or almost all, on the burgeoning U.S. market and his high-efficiency passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) cells seems to be paying off, the company may even report a profit – or at least a positive EBITDA figure – in the forseeable future, with a little help from the Qatari backers that helped save the business.

Provided SolarWorld successfully fights off the $676 million lawsuit it is contesting with a silicon supplier for alleged breach of contract (you might have missed it, it’s tucked away on page 39 of the shiny 44-page financial update document), the German manufacturer could be set to be a big noise on the back of its American sales.

… and it’s goodnight from him

And finally, the other popular story with readers in the last seven days was the previous instalment of this weekly bulletin, which will pass into new, afr-more-capable Brummie ownership next week as I sail off into the solar sunset for a new position. Thanks for reading and please continue to do so.