First Float Column
An history of past editorials from the homepage of the IEA-PVPS website.
6 November 2014 - New Grid Integration Reports
The massive deployment of grid-connected PV in recent years has brought PV penetration in the electricity grids to levels where the conventional fit-and-forget approach to interconnecting PV reaches its limits. In many cases, constraints and limitations of existing electricity infrastructure already have evolved to one of the key barriers delaying or impeding the realisation of PV projects.
While until recently grid issues associated with increased PV Penetration levels have been an issue in just a few local markets mainly in Europe, it has since then become a truly global issue attracting global interest and attendance. In many cases PV has already become a game-changer in the way utilities, transmission as well as distribution system operators
plan and operate power system infrastructure. Last but not least the grid integration of High Penetration PV has been identified as key prerequisite for the future development of the world-wide solar industry.
It is clear that resolving these global challenges requires the broad collaboration of experts from different stakeholders involved and the access to global information on experiences and best practises. Consequently, the Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme of the International Energy Agency (IEA-PVPS) has put up grid integration of on top of its research agenda, following its strategic mission to enhance the international collaborative
efforts which facilitate the role of photovoltaic solar energy as a cornerstone in the transition to sustainable energy systems.
Coordinated by Task 14 (High Penetration PV in Electricity Grids) a worldwide group of experts has been working together exchanging expertise and developing innovative solutions addressing technical as well as non-technical challenges for the advanced integration of PV. From its beginning Task 14 has focused on working together with utilities, electricity industry, and leading research to develop the technologies and methods to enable the widespread deployment of distributed PV into the electricity system.
Task 14 addresses integration challenges and technologies on two main levels of the power system, local distribution grids and the overall power transmission system.
The two new reports specifically covers aspects related to distribution integration, presenting a worldwide selection of best-practice case studies and the latest findings from the working period from 2010 to 2013 within the IEA Task 14 Subtask 2. They present the main features of the evolution from uni-directional grids to bi-directional grids, under the pressure of PV development.
In the coming years, Task 14 will continue focusing on the most important aspects of PV impacts on distribution and transmission grids, on system stability and, in countries where this makes senses, the impact on the electricity system and markets. These subjects will remain at the cornerstone of PV development, with more markets reaching penetration levels, sometimes locally, that require to at least partially rethink the way how our electricity systems will be managed in the future.
8 October 2014 - Trends in PV Applications
Following the difficult year of 2012 in terms of market growth, industry consolidation, policy uncertainty and ongoing fast cost reduction, 2013 has seen a slower evolution on the cost side but also a growing worldwide market again, although with a different split of dominant markets compared to the past.
The fast rise of PV markets in Asia and America has been confirmed as has the decline of the total market in Europe. Overall, 35 GW of PV were installed in IEA PVPS member countries during 2013 (2012: 25 GW), whereas the global PV market is estimated to be at least 39 GW, translating to more than an average of 100 MW installed on a daily basis throughout the year. The global installed total PV capacity is estimated at roughly 140 GW at the end of 2013. PV system prices have seen a slower decline than in the years before or even small increases, indicating that the speed of future cost reduction may be reduced. On the supply side, the indicators suggest that the consolidation phase in the industry starts to be overcome although competition remains high.
At the same time, at the present comparatively low prices, some price flexibility for different applications can be expected. With PV life cycle costs of electricity reaching socket parity with electricity grids in some countries, self consumption and new business models gain importance while Feed-in Tariffs continue to evolve. Overall, this is an encouraging sign for the growing competitiveness of PV and the increasing occurrence of self-sustained markets. Clearly, policy support is changing over time but is still considered essential for the near term development of PV markets worldwide.
Quantitatively, the number of countries experiencing PV as an essential part of their electricity supply is increasing, with Italy in first place with close to 8% of annual electricity demand coming from PV, followed by Germany (> 6%) and Greece (close to 6%). In terms of peak capacity, these high shares of PV start to affect and pose challenges to the integration in the electricity system. New business models and market designs will emerge in response to this development. All of these developments are clear signs that PV is becoming more mature and a relevant part of the electricity supply system.
Download the report (and former editions) here.
27 August 2014
National Survey Reports
2013 was another record year for PV installations and 2014 looks even more positive with a growing demand in many regions of the World. IEA-PVPS has collected and analyzed information related to PV markets and industry development for more than 20 years and this will continue. The National Survey Reports, prepared by national administrations or local PV experts detail the main evolutions that happened in a country the year before. But the most interesting aspect of PV development in 2013 was the remarkable development of Asian countries and the speed at which the knowledge about PV potential is disseminated in dozens of new countries, triggering development plans.
These developments shows that the old recipe started ten years ago in Europe are used again: feed-in tariffs and tax breaks are still driving a very large part of the PV installations all around the world. Markets driven by net-metering schemes are emerging and, where PV has already reached grid-parity with retail electricity prices, markets partially driven by installations self-consuming a large share of their PV electricity are unlocking new challenges and questions. In order to avoid repeating some mistakes done in the last years in several countries, National Survey Reports allow to better understand the evolution of national policies, with a focus on market development policies, but also industry developments, and R&D policies.
2 June 2014
Quality and Reliability of PV Systems
Quality and reliability of PV systems is at the core of discussions during this year’s Intersolar Europe fair in Munich. While the PV market grew significantly in the last five years, the question of PV systems performance becomes central to continue lowering both the cost of PV electricity and the cost of financing PV installations.
Following four years of PV systems performance and reliability research, the IEA PVPS programme’s Task 13 has begun delivery on a series of five reports summarizing these years of intensive research activities. These reports focus on several aspects of PV performance and reliability and cover the main aspects of quality-oriented activities in the PV sector.
Three new reports focus on PV Performance and the impact of PV module failure, for both crystalline silicon and thin-film technologies. They show that the question of quality and reliability can be managed in a scientific way and that in recent years much progress has been made, in parallel with the growth of the PV markets and industry.
28 April 2014
The 2013 IEA PVPS Annual Report has been published and is now available on this website. It shows the speed at which the PV sector has evolved and how the country involvement in this PV program has progressed.
In 2014, Thailand already joined the PVPS program and more countries are discussing their possible participation: this shows the rapid evolution of mentalities with regard to PV, and reflects what currently happens globally.
In parallel, the energy environment is changing fast and the challenges linked to PV evolution are shaping the PVPS activities in order to best reflect it. For sure, PV is not considered anymore as a marginal source of electricity and while it will produce only slightly more than 1% of the world electricity demand in 2014, its future is at the center of many studies. One example is the April 2014 release of the final draft of the IPCC’s fifth report, Working Group III ‘’ (that can be found here)
In this report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has announced that "" in mitigating harmful emissions from electricity production.
This announcement shows how expectations are high for the PV technology and how important the availability of adequate and objective information will remain.
The Annual Report can be found here.
31 March 2014
After two years of market and industry consolidation, the PV market grew again in the 2013. In total, about 36.9 GW of PV capacity were installed in the IEA PVPS countries and the other major markets during 2013 (2012: 29.4 GW; 2011: 29.2 GW; 2010: 16.7 GW). This raised the total installed capacity in IEA PVPS countries to 123.2 GW with another estimated 10.8 GW of capacity installed in other major countries. These are the main outcomes of the latest IEA PVPS “Snapshot of Global PV” report, published on 31 March.
After several years of rapid growth and a stabilization in 2012, the PV market grew in 2013 to at least 36.9 GW. The Asia Pacific region represented around 59% of the global PV market in 2013, a premiere in more than a decade. While Europe still represented 59% of this global market in 2012, its market share fell to 28%, a consequence of a reduced market in Europe and a growing global PV market. The PV market in the Americas went above 5 GW for the first time. The Middle East and Africa remain regions in development for the PV market. However, the most important growth was observed in China which has progressed quickly and was the very first market in 2013 with 11.3 GW of PV systems connected to the grid. The second largest market in 2013 was Japan with 6.9 GW, ahead of the USA, with 4.75 GW and finally the first European market was Germany at 3.3 GW.
The annual PV contribution to electricity demand has passed the 1% mark in 15 countries, with Italy at the top with at least 7.8 % and the overall European PV contribution amounting to around 3% of Europe’s electricity demand.
27 February 2014
Managing grids with high shares of variable renewables is one of the main challenges of PV (and Wind) development. In a new study published in February 2014, the IEA shows that any country can reach high shares of PV and Wind electricity cost-effectively.
The inherent variability of wind power and solar PV is raising concerns: Can power systems remain reliable and cost-effective while supporting high shares of variable renewable energy (VRE)? The study shows that integrating high shares – i.e., 30 percent of annual electricity production or more – of wind and solar PV in power systems can come at little additional cost. However, costs depend on how flexible the system currently is and what strategy is adopted to develop system flexibility. Exploring the differences between developed and developing countries, the study highlights the necessary steps to integrate high shares of VRE cost-effectively, the impact on incumbent generators and the electricity system in general, especially in developed countries with stable electricity systems. It shows how the transformation challenge in stable systems is twofold: scaling up the new, flexible system while scaling down the inflexible part of the old.