Hungary cements position in solar gigawatt club


pv magazine: With more than 4 GW of PV generation capacity installed at the end of last year, solar momentum is building in Hungary. What are the main drivers behind this growth?

Szolnoki: According to the latest figures from the Hungarian transmission system operator, we were already at more than 4.5 GW of cumulative installed PV capacity at the end of first quarter this year.

In the under 50 kW rooftop segment, we had two consecutive record years with around 400 MW installed. In 2021, there was a big surge in installations for fear of ending a very favorable net metering scheme. Last year, our centrally regulated electricity price for households and small enterprises, which was the lowest one in Europe, was doubled because of the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and that meant that everybody wanted PV.

In the over 50 kW market segment, where utility-scale PV plants account for the lion’s share, the installation figures are also strong. There are some 5 GW of allocated capacities for utility-scale PV which is to be built in the next four to five years, but these are old capacities, which means that the application was received three or four years ago.

Grid congestion is hampering the rollout of large-scale solar in Hungary. How dire is this threat?

For the last two years, no utility-scale project was able to secure a grid connection. However, around 3 GW of projects that submitted applications last year got their answers from the grid operator mid-May that they won’t be able to connect before 2028. It took 12 months to greenlight these big PV projects.

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Last year, the rooftop PV market took a hit from a policy shift. What are we seeing in this segment today?

In October, the Hungarian government introduced a provision for sub-50 kW PV installations, under which new systems could no longer feed into the grid. This led to a total collapse in sales of new systems. Now, we are seeing some activity in this market segment, although a decreasing one.

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We are expecting a decision in August about the potential lifting of this feed-in ban, which was originally introduced as a preventive measure as the grid was getting saturated. A new net billing, which we call gross metering, is in the works but the rules have not been defined yet.

Will solar find its way to thrive despite these challenges?

Definitely.  In the sub-50 kW market segment, I can imagine that the installation figures will be a bit lower this year or even on the same level because only days before the introduction of the feed-in ban some 100,000 new applications came in and they are still being delivered. In the utility-scale segment, if one out of these 5 GW of the allocated capacity is built every year, that means that even 2023 is going to be a record year with above 1 GW in total.

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