Norwegian solar market sees the light with 366% growth in 2016

Norway is a country with a lot of oil and a relatively low solar radiation, in theory not an Eldorado for solar pioneers. Last year, however, the country’s PV market showed it first signs of real growth.

According to preliminary statistics released by local consultancy company Multiconsult the country’s solar market registered 366% year-on-year increase in new PV installations in 2016, with approximately 11.4 MW in new capacity. This compares to 2.4 MW in 2015, 2.2 MW in 2014 and only 620 kW in 2013.

Approximately 10 MW of the new installed solar power comes from grid-connected PV systems, while the remaining amount is from stand-alone systems.

The country’s cumulative installed PV power had reached 26.6 MW as of the end of December 2016.

Multiconsult explains that last year’s development was mainly due to the fact that issues related to the uncertainty over the rules on self-consumption and green electricity certificates were solved at the beginning of 2016. At the time, the Norwegian government said that all solar PV generation would be eligible for green electricity certificates, together with the “Plus Customer” self-consumption scheme.

Under the revised “Plus Customer” scheme (Plusskundeordningen), power utilities will be forced to buy power from PV system operators, while prior to 2016 the scheme was voluntary and power providers could decide if to offer to pay the PV system operators or not.

“This means,” said Øystein Holm from Multiconsult, “that PV has a right to export up to 100 kW to the local grid, but will only be compensated the hourly spot price for this, hence self-consumption has significantly higher value since the total electricity price consists of 3 parts: the spot power price, the grid-cost, and tax/VAT.”

According to Holm, MW-sized PV projects can now also gain financial income from the incentive for new renewable production, Renewable Energy Certifiates, RECS (Elsertifikater). “In 2015, said Holm, there was uncertainty because the country’s grid operator proposed that only surplus PV-power exported to the grid should receive RECS. However, in late 2015 2015 the Parliament concluded that the total electricity production from PV-plants shall be granted RECS.”

Multiconsult notes that the residential segment accounted for 3 MW of last year’s new grid-connected projects, while the remaining 7 MW came in the form of commercial installations. Of the residential PV power, 660 kW was financed through the solar rebate scheme launched by stated-owned energy company Enova in January 2015. This scheme provides a NOK 10,000 ($1,185) rebate for installing a PV system up to 15 kW, plus NOK 1,250 ($1,481) per installed kW.

Furthermore, Multiconsult reports that the average price of a residential systems declined about 19% compared with 2015, and 27% from 2014, while the average price for commercial projects dropped by 4% from 2015 and 10% from 2014. The average price for residential PV installations for 2016 was NOK 15 ($1.7)/W, while that of commercial systems was NOK 14 ($1.6)/W.

Multiconsult added that three PV plants larger in size than 1 MW were installed last year and that these installations had an average price of NOK 12 ($1.4) /W.

“The strong growth we are seeing, concluded Multiconsult, will create a need to hire and train new staff, particularly amongst installers, so that quality standards can be maintained, which will be vital to the long-term health of the market. A good and predictable regulatory framework is needed. More generous government subsidies or higher electricity prices, which require political will, would both support the market.”