Costa Rica's distributed solar back on track with new net metering prices

With the vast majority of its energy mix taken up by renewables, Costa Rica has long been setting a praiseworthy example to the rest of the world. Yet, amongst the country’s clean energy revolution, solar PV has found itself lingering in the background. Now, with fresh net metering prices for consumers to take advantage of as well as lower installation costs, Costa Rica’s solar industry may begin to enjoy substantial growth in what could be a bountiful market.

Net metering projects for distributed solar systems have been frozen for over a year, as power company I.C.E. and solar organization Acesolar, negotiated the cost that solar energy users would pay to use the grid for net metering purposes, as reported by Solar Costa Rica. The new program was scheduled to begin in October 2015, but the negotiations were extended. However, Costa Rica’s Regulatory Authority for Public Services (ARESEP) was proud to announce on Tuesday that a new price structure had been agreed upon, and that the new net metering program would be up and running on April 7 2016.

Businesses and homeowners look set to make substantial gains from the new price structure, as they will only be charged a grid access fee of 11 Colones to 29 Colones (USD 0.02 to USD 0.05) for each KWh that their solar systems runs their meter backwards, while enjoying fee free self-consumption. Consumers pay up to 161 Colones per KWh to power companies for their energy from the grid, so the potential for savings is huge.

The future looks bright

Costa Rica has shown a great drive to develop a clean economy with renewable energy. Today, fuel burning plants make up only 22% of the country’s energy capacity, while renewable energy regularly accounts for over 80% of Costa Rica’s annual energy mix.

The country’s solar industry was developing nicely, before the previous solar program was shut down in March last year, but has since stagnated. New feed-in-tariffs were introduced last year, while various incentives are in place to encourage the installation of solar systems, such as lower interest on loans from Costa Rican banks for solar projects.

To add to this, installation prices themselves have been greatly reduced due to the falling costs of the technology, which is helping solar electricity to cost less than electricity straight from the grid. With the introduction of net metering prices on top of this, Costa Rica’s solar industry is expecting a resurgence, and a bigger slice of the energy mix.