Cross-subsidy of power tariffs lure businesses to solar energy

The fall in solar power generation cost has now made it attractive for businesses to go for captive solar power plan

solarpower2-kEzG--621x414@LiveMint.jpg

New Delhi: The practice of forcing industries to cross-subsidize household consumers’ power tariffs is leading to an unprecedented shift among businesses towards captive solar power with some committing to go fully reliant on clean energy.

Cost of producing solar power, which was over Rs12 per kilowatt hour (unit) in 2010, has dropped sharply over the years.

The latest auction, which was held in November, saw takers for solar power projects willing to sell power at Rs3 a unit.

The fall in solar power generation cost has now made it attractive for businesses to go for captive solar power plants, including rooftop plants that supply power cheaper than from the grid, which is expensive on account of the cross-subsidy that industrial consumers are saddled with.

Businesses, especially in the manufacturing sector, have long been complaining of high cost of power, exorbitant tax on diesel and escalating cost of capital as factors that render them less competitive in global markets where their peers enjoy low or negative cost of capital and in some cases, subsidies.

“Solar power is now available at Rs 4-4.5 a unit. In the future, it will cost much less because of technology improvement and possibly low cost of capital. In West Bengal, for instance, cost of power from the grid for industries ranges from Rs 6-8 per unit at present. In Maharashtra, it is Rs 6.5 a unit. Everywhere, except two or three states, tariffs are above Rs 5 a unit for industrial consumers. If you are able to get concessional finance from any multilateral agency and you can produce solar power at Rs 4 a unit consistently for 25 years, it can reduce cost of energy for the business and reduce carbon emissions,” said Mahendra Singhi, chief executive officer, Dalmia Cements (Bharat) Ltd.

Dalmia Cements’s short term goal is to raise the share of clean energy in its total electricity consumption fourfold from 7% at present and to go fully reliant on clean energy in the long term.

Multilateral agencies such as International Finance Corp. (IFC), the private investment arm of World Bank Group, US Exim Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Japan International Cooperation Agency and Germany’s KFW are bullish on India’s rapidly expanding renewable energy industry for investment opportunities.

“We already have $1 billion of investments in clean energy projects in India. We are open to scaling it up to $3-4 billion in coming years,” said Shalabh Tandon, India lead, climate business & clean energy, IFC.

IFC on Thursday announced an equity investment of $125 million in Hero Future Energies Private Ltd., a clean energy firm, for a minority stake. Tandon said that IFC does not invest in coal-based thermal power because of its commitment to climate change goals.

Companies like Apple Inc., IKEA Group, Nokia Oyj, Infosys Ltd and Tata Motors Ltd are among those committed to becoming fully reliant on clean energy.

The Economic Survey 2015-16 had suggested that the burden of subsidising poor consumers can shift from industrial consumers to rich individuals and that state electricity regulators should use income as a yardstick to fix the power tariff for individual consumers. The idea was to help businesses become more competitive.

India has a target of putting in place 175 gigawatt (GW) of renewable power capacity by 2022, out of which 100 GW is to come from solar. At the moment, the country has about 8.7 GW of solar power capacity.

One hurdle that companies face in going fully reliant on clean energy is that storage of energy is a costly proposition, which makes them rely on stable power from the grid for a significant part of their energy consumption when renewable energy is not available. Singhi of Dalmia Cements said that once power storage becomes a viable option, the company will be fully run on clean energy.

View original post on: http://www.livemint.com/Industry/hjuezPVDJdbEbipsCKavSN/Crosssubsidy-of-power-tariffs-lure-businesses-to-solar-ener.html

Accountability of regulators a serious crisis in India: Goyal

Stating that accountability of regulators was a very serious crisis that the country was facing, Union Minister Piyush Goyal today said very often they are not even able to justify many of their decisions.
“The one very, very serious crisis that the nation is facing today is the accountability of regulators. There is almost no accountability of regulators. And in the garb of independence of regulation, it occasionally goes to another extreme,” the Union Minister of State for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy and Mines said.
He was speaking at a seminar on ‘Ease of Doing Business- Regulators as Facilitators’ at Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017 here.Pointing at regulation of environment sector as a case in point, he said the sector suffered due to “over regulation as regulators are not able to justify many decisions”.

“The environment sector has suffered due to over regulation and very often regulators are not able to justify many decisions. So, you have a situation, where there is nothing like forest for an area called forest, no satellite image, no ground report says there is a single tree in that area,” he said adding that seeking building permission or regulatory permission for such areas causes a lot of trouble.

Attending the seminar were chairman of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) Ashish Bahuguna, chairman of Competition Commission of India (CCI) Devendra Kumar Sikri, and chairman of Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) Gireesh Pradhan, among others.

“Transparency is another area, when we look at the regulatory process. Regulators should be open about their working, hearings should as far as possible be more and more in public domain, and speaking orders, with a logical approach, should be available in public domain so that others should benchmark their business process to whatever is decided by regulators,” he told the audience.

“And regulators should also be user-friendly rather than being under the shroud of what really was the intent of regulators and intent of law. Lastly, it is important to target regulation on what the problem is, so that we don’t tend to go haywire and over-exceed our brief,” Goyal said.

“If we can keep the side effects of regulations minimum, it can help make regulators truly a facilitator person and help economic growth. We can then have a situation where people are not fearsome of regulators, we have to get fear out of regulation,” he said.

“In that sense, policy makers and regulators should work hand in hand. You can’t have a situation, where policy makers and regulators think differently,” he added.

View original post on Business standard: http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/accountability-of-regulators-a-serious-crisis-in-india-goyal-117011101448_1.html

Has India’s Energy Sector Really Transformed?

SL Rao

Most importantly, Piyush Goyal, the Union Minister for Power and Renewable Energy, Coal, and Mines has cleared the coal sector’s Augean Stables, which were riddled with corruption, theft, and inefficiency. Coal is easily available today, imports have fallen, and global prices have fallen along with those of oil and gas.

Falling domestic demand has sent coal prices lower as well. Power is surplus despite power plants working at a low average plant load factor of 60 percent. But at the same time, around 30 crore people remain without electricity.

Does This Indicate A Transformation?

Not so much. On the positive side is the coal availability and price situation, increasing but still inadequate interstate transmission capacity, some reduction in transmission and collection losses.

But state-owned power distribution companies do not generate enough of their own funds to buy power from within the state or from outside. This is because tariffs remain uneconomical for the distribution companies.

States have violated the law that permits open access for distribution companies to purchase cheaper power from other states. Instead, they buy expensive power from within the state.

Ruling parties treat power as a public good which must be available to all, irrespective of their ability to pay. This has meant that power is given free or below cost to many households, for agriculture in many states, and to some other favoured consumers. Agricultural use of free or cheap power has led to a surge in water-intensive crops like rice and sugarcane, often on soil that is unsuitable. Outcomes range from saline soil to depleting groundwater and river water levels.

The government just ends up accumulating large stockpiles of rice. Compounding that, the Government of India has a minimum support price policy that encourages cereals even when the demand is falling. It has no relation to water availability and use for the crops.

There has been no improvement in gas supplies to operate stranded power generation capacity. Even when gas is available, demand may not be sufficient. Gas generation is flexible and can usefully back-up variable generation from renewables.

Renewable Energy And Efficient Appliances

Wind and solar renewable energy capacities have gone up significantly, as have some small hydro-electric projects. Governments incur subsidy expenditure in promoting renewable energy, but regulators have failed to enforce renewable energy obligations, resulting in a loss of revenue for the generators of clean power. State power distribution companies have not been compelled to meet renewable energy obligations in their total power supply mix.

Progress has been made on energy efficiency. The distribution of LED light bulbs has helped conserve a significant amount of power, as have other measures initiated by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. This may well have resulted in some decline in demand for generated electricity.

UDAY Scheme: A Stop-Gap Fix

The power sector benefited from the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme, which reduced debt on the books of state distribution companies by getting the corresponding state government to take over the debt. This, however, has not made any of the distribution companies profitable, but the saving in interest costs has freed some cash.

The UDAY scheme is the best that the Centre can do since electricity is a concurrent subject in the Constitution.

The scheme needs to be seen, not as a solution, but as short-term relief. Power distribution is a state subject, and ruling parties are populist about electricity pricing as they are able to woo large electoral voting blocs.

This is made possible via the appointment of state regulators who are mostly compliant, often from the community of retired bureaucrats who have served in the same state. Until regulators are appointed for their independence, courage, and lack of subservience to ruling governments, there can be little change in the dire financial position of power distribution companies.

It is apparent that fundamental change still eludes the power sector.

UDAY is merely transferring some distribution debt to state governments. It does not tackle the problem of below-cost tariffs and significant inefficiency caused by government ownership.

The only way state governments can indefinitely continue taking on power distribution debt as it accumulates, is via the annual budgetary exercise. But doing so will divert funds from vital state spending – on human capital, law and order, and the building of infrastructure.

There is no option but to charge users a tariff that is remunerative to the company.

Regulate Well, Build Capacity, Store Better

Regulators must have the authority to punish those responsible for below-cost tariffs, and delays in Aggregate Revenue Requirement filings. Transmission and distribution losses, poor collection, and theft of electricity must be targeted, monitored and failures severely penalised.

Interstate and intrastate transmission capacities are grossly inadequate. Governments are the primary investors in this space, more so because private investors are put off by long and frequent government delays, and the consequent costs.

Delays in giving government clearances on land, environment, forest and others have held up many a project, keeping out subsequent private investment.

While India is taking rapid strides in renewable energy, and there are heavy government subsidies involved, there is little investment in backup storage capacity to make up for a shortfall when there is no sun or little wind.

This storage can be of water, batteries or as flexible generation capacities in gas or coal.

In sum, the energy and especially the power sector in India has experienced an uncoordinated set of policies that have left this vital sector largely in government hands and running at a loss. Foreign investment is most unlikely in such a sector. The domestic investment that has taken place is not very profitable. Their supply is either confined to large users or use other means to cover costs.

Huge investment has been made in the power sector, but it needs more. The present surplus is artificial and not due to demand satisfaction, as much as to poor revenues. The energy sector must be approached in its entirety, policies must be integrated for the private as well as public sector to run it in a way that is remunerative.

SL Rao is a Distinguished Fellow Emeritus at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), and was the first chairman of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission.

(This article was originally published in BloombergQuint.)

 

View original Post on: https://www.thequint.com/environment/2017/04/03/energy-sector-transformation-renewable

India Focus: Financing the renewables dream

India has surprised many with the speed and government commitment of its renewable energy programme. But what are the financial challenges behind taking the country’s clean energy ambitions to the next stage. 

1703PEI_13-1.jpg

There are few countries in the world – and arguably none in the so-called developing world – that have renewable energy targets as ambitious as those of India.

When the country announced in 2015 that it was planning to have an installed renewable energy capacity of 175 GW by 2022, many industry observers believed this was simply undeliverable.

And yet the country is on track to beat that target by a couple of years, thanks to a raft of policy initiatives and financial backing, not least from domestic investors.

“India is absolutely committed to renewable energy targets and clean energy growth and nothing will stop that,” said Piyush Goyal, minister of state for Power, Coal New and Renewable Energy and Mines at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi in January.

He said that today, “renewable energy stands on its own feet”.

“Gone are the days when governments need to provide support. It makes good economic sense to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency.”

Kishor Nair, chief operating officer of Welspun Energy, says that when Goyal took charge, “particularly in the first six months, he was having a lot of discussions with industry to understand the problems of developers in executing projects. The tariffs have come down because of a lot of enabling policies. A lot of initiatives were taken in cutting down the project costs, optimizing the projects earlier.”

Vikram Kailas is managing director of Mytrah Energy, which was formed in 2010, when it raised $80 million from institutional investors such as Capital Group, Blackrock and Henderson.

“So we have seen the transformation of the industry,” said Kailas at the World Future Energy Summit. “When we started the company, a seven-year loan was standard and interest rates were about 13 per cent. Today, 18-20 year loans are standard in India and interest rates have down to about 10 per cent.”

Mytrah Energy presently has a total wind portfolio capacity of 1000 MW across 15 wind farms in eight states – Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Kailas says “India is going through a transformation” with, for the first time, 1000 MW of wind having been tendered. “It’s a good move for two reasons. One, it opens up the boundaries beyond state level and increases the demand, and I believe that it leads to transparent pricing. It’ll lead to a better price realization both for the state and for the industry.”

Vinjay Rustagi is managing director of Bridge to India, a renewables consulting and research company working with “everybody across the whole value chain”.

He said: “When you talk to major international investors about the Indian renewables sector, the fundamentals for the sector are compelling.”

“When you look at the imperative to reduce carbon emissions, the growing power demand, the desire to reduce energy costs, as well to provide power to people 24/7 across India, the fundamentals are so strong that we see a strongly growing renewable power sector for one or two or more decades in the future.”

Rustagi says that the key in India is that the renewables market “provides visibility, growth and strong government support which are huge positives for financiers in the sector”.

To deliver India’s big renewables ambitions is going to take big money. “We think that the total financing requirement for the sector is about $120 billion based on today’s cost of installing and setting up these systems,” says Rustagi. “That is spread between equity and debt in the ratio of 25 and 75 per cent. Most of that investment is geared towards power generation, which is being dominated by the private sector. And of course there needs to be a lot of ancillary investment in transmission and distribution and upgrading of the grid, which is currently led by the public sector.”

The scale and pace of India’s renewables rollout is vast and fast. “The key thing is, historically, the sector has been about 5 GW a year – going forward we want to scale that up to 10-15 GW a year,” explains Rustagi. “Is India and investors ready to make this sustainable on a long-term basis? Is there enough appetite in the financing market to support this growth?”

He said “the biggest risk for any entity that is setting up a renewable project is the ability of the grid to absorb and sell the power to consumers. A huge amount of work needs to go into making the grid strong and resilient enough to cope with the growing renewables capacity in the country.”

“If the Indian government wants to attract enough private investments, it needs to make sure that developers don’t have to take risks and that the transmission grid is capable of coping with the extra supply of renewables.”

1703PEI_14-1.jpg

Minister Piyush Goyal: “It makes good economic sense to invest in clean energy.”

Credit: IRENA

Another risk which international investors are worried about in India is the country’s distribution companies. “There are companies which still by and large are government-owned and they have various pressures – political and regulatory – to keep tariffs low,” says Rustagi. “Their balance sheets are not very strong, so the question really is: can distribution companies make sure that they can absorb all this growing capacity in the country.”

A further concern – though perhaps less so now than in past years – is the Rupee risk. He said PPAs were all structured in Rupees and “when you’re coming from outside, there’s a genuine concern over what happens when the Rupee depreciates. The Rupee has been volatile over the last six-to-seven years. But I think over a period of time, driven by the attractiveness of the market, many international investors have got comfortable with the Rupee depreciation risk. This is something that you can build into your financial model – you can quantify it.”

The financial players

So who is playing in the Indian market? There is huge interest from both the international and the Indian community to finance projects: international developers, private equity and Indian corporates.

“The interesting thing,” says Rustagi, “is that it is the Indian corporates and private equity funds who have dominated the market. International investors bring big balance sheets, and cheaper cost of money, but we see that the India players have been the most aggressive in the market.”

However, he poses the question: “What happens to these investors over a period of time. Most Indian investors don’t arguably have a long-term view – they want to churn their assets, recycle their funding – so is there enough debt in the market to be able to absorb their funding on a long-term basis?”

Rustagi says debt for the sector is “mainly coming from Indian lenders who seem to have a huge appetite”.

“The India renewables market is very attractive. It offers multiple-decade growth and strong policies from the government. On the equity side, the key issue if scale of capital.”

Daanish Varma, director of Sustainable Investment Banking at Yes Bank, says “lenders have become much more comfortable with the solar story – they understand the technology”.

But he adds that once other capital-intensive infrastructure projects in India start picking up, renewables will have to compete for capital, “so we will have to watch out for that”.

He too says India is a bank-driven debt market. So how does the sector bring in the big bucks of the bond and pension markets. “Once we address the risk portion of it,” says Varma. “Once we are able to say that operating renewable assets in India is as secure as you can get, then you get the bond market and the pension investors coming into the process. You need to move from a private-equity play to a pension play for renewable assets.”

But Anand Rohtagi, managing director of Synergy Consulting, warns: “I don’t think India is ready for the equity capital needed for the quantum of solar technology you are looking at. If you see where India stands today, we have had domestic developers look at the market, international investors are standing behind the domestic developers – there is not a single international developer looking at the market. That’s where the issue lies.

“India today does not have access to long-term equity capital. Most of the capital you see is short term. For the sector to grow it needs long-term capital – it needs players who can hold equity for 15-to-20 years. So India is a long way from the equity-funding cycle.”

View original post on: http://www.powerengineeringint.com/articles/print/volume-25/issue-3/features/financing-the-renewables-dream.html

Solar-Panel Roads to Be Built Across Four Continents Next Year

Solar-Panel Roads to Be Built Across Four Continents Next Year

Electric avenues that can transmit the sun’s energy onto power grids may be coming to a city near you.

A subsidiary of Bouygues SA has designed rugged solar panels, capable of withstand the weight of an 18-wheeler truck, that they’re now building into road surfaces. After nearly five years of research and laboratory tests, they’re constructing 100 outdoor test sites and plan to commercialize the technology in early 2018.

“We wanted to find a second life for a road,” said Philippe Harelle, the chief technology officer at Colas SA’s Wattway unit, owned by the French engineering group Bouygues. “Solar farms use land that could otherwise be for agriculture, while the roads are free.”

As solar costs plummet, panels are being increasingly integrated into everyday materials. Last month Tesla Motors Inc. surprised investors by unveiling roof shingles that double as solar panels. Other companies are integrating photovoltaics into building facades. Wattway joins groups including Sweden’s Scania and Solar Roadways in the U.S. seeking to integrate panels onto pavement.

To resist the weight of traffic, Wattway layers several types of plastics to create a clear and durable casing. The solar panel underneath is an ordinary model, similar to panels on rooftops. The electrical wiring is embedded in the road and the contraption is topped by an anti-slip surface made from crushed glass.
A kilometer-sized testing site began construction last month in the French village of Tourouvre in Normandy. The 2,800 square meters of solar panels are expected to generate 280 kilowatt-hours at peak, enough to power all the public lighting in a town of 5,000 for a year, according to the company.
The electricity generated by this stretch of solar road will feed directly into the grid. Another test site is being used to charge electric vehicles. A third will power a small hydrogen production plant. Wattway has also installed its panels to light electronic billboards and is working on links to street lights.

The next two sites will be in Calgary in Canada and in the U.S. state of Georgia. Wattway also plans to build them in Africa, Japan and throughout the European Union.

“We need to test for all kinds of different traffic and climate conditions,” Harelle said. “I want to find the limits of it. We think that maybe it will not be able to withstand a snow plow.”

The potential fragility joins cost as a potential hurdle.
“We’re seeing solar get integrated in a number of things, from windows in buildings to rooftops of cars, made possible by the falling cost of panels,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Pietro Radoia said. “On roads, I don’t think that it will really take off unless there’s a shortage of land sometime in the future.”’

One square meter of the solar-panel road material currently costs between 2,000 ($2,126) and 2,500 euros, which includes monitoring, data collection and installation costs. Wattway aims to bring the price down to be competitive with ordinary solar farms by 2020.

View original post on:

http://www.eqmagpro.com/solar-panel-roads-to-be-built-across-four-continents-next-year/?utm_source=EQ+Int’l+Magazine+New+Emailer+List&utm_campaign=9d9a9b14d3-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2016_11_24&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_94f201c47e-9d9a9b14d3-248515957&ct=t(Solar_EXIM_BAnks_etc_11_24_2016)&mc_cid=9d9a9b14d3&mc_eid=0f185f0361

India Wavers on Emissions as Power Plants Balk at Price Tag

India may ease a deadline to cut pollution from coal-fired power plants blamed for causing the world’s worst air quality amid pressure from generators who say it’s too difficult to implement the $37 billion reforms.

The deadline to meet all the new standards may be pushed back beyond the original December 2017 target, said S.D. Dubey, chairman of the Central Electricity Authority and head of the panel drafting the road map for power producers to meet the new guidelines. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government proposed the limits on toxic emissions in December 2015.

The delay highlights the challenge facing Modi’s administration to provide cleaner air alongside affordable and reliable power to all of the country’s 1.3 billion people. Limiting emissions would take longer than the government’s original two-year deadline and cost as much as 2.5 trillion rupees ($37.4 billion), the Association of Power Producers, a lobby group of non-state generators, said in March.

The new goals may be implemented “in a phased manner,” Dubey said in a phone interview. “Particulate matter emissions should be addressed in the first phase. The next step would be sulfur dioxide emissions and later on oxides of nitrogen. That’s the direction we are moving in.”

The office of Federal Environment Secretary A.N. Jha, whose ministry originally proposed the standards, didn’t respond to e-mails seeking comment.

India’s 187 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity, which generate more than 75 percent of the nation’s electricity, contribute to the air pollution that makes India home to what the World Health Organization has determined are 11 of the top 20 cities on the planet with the worst air quality. The plants account for 61 percent of its generation capacity, according to the Central Electricity Authority.

India must first establish monitoring systems at all plants to establish an emissions baseline, determine what technologies will be appropriate and then install them at the plants, said Leslie Sloss, an analyst with the IEA Clean Coal Centre, a technology cooperation program of the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

“The time frame for the new norms is extremely challenging and probably not possible in practice,” Sloss said. “The new norms equate to India complying with emissions standards within a few years that Western economies have worked up to over decades. ”

Coal-fired power plants contribute to the release of about 60 percent of India’s industrial particulate matter, as much as half of the sulfur dioxide and 30 percent of oxides of nitrogen, the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment said in a report in December, weeks after the new standards were announced.

“The emission norms require capital expenditure, which will lead to an increase in tariffs and burden the already weak financials of state power retailers,” said Sachin Mehta, an analyst at Mumbai-based Centrum Broking Ltd. “The plan is fraught with challenges. It is impossible to meet the current deadline.”

View original post on:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-02/india-wavers-on-emissions-goal-as-power-plants-balk-at-price-tag

Net-metering Is Dead — Long Live Net-metering!

Residential solar has demonstrated unprecedented growth over the past several years, driven in part by falling equipment prices, rising customer awareness, and supportive public policy. One of those key policies has been net-metering, which provides customers in more than 40 states credit for any excess solar generation not consumed at the customer’s home.

Despite years of encouraging the expansion of solar, many utilities now argue that customers with solar do not pay their fair share and create a cost shift to customers without solar. However, this argument does not address the true issue at hand, which is how does the grid need to change to address the emergence of distributed energy resource (DER) technologies, such as solar and storage?
The current utility regulatory structure was built for a one-way flow of power from large, centralized power plants to end consumers. The original net-metering policies were also established underneath this paradigm, and it is natural that compensation for exported generation will also evolve as the power industry shifts from a one-way communication platform to a two-way communication approach that delivers higher value to the grid and consumers.
As solar and DER adoption increases, compensation for generation and grid services must evolve from its early days as a simple billing mechanism for the one-way flow of power from large, centralized power plants to a more sophisticated platform connecting distributed generation and consumers to the grid.
To accomplish this goal, the grid must be modernized to allow for efficient and effective two-way communications by enabling data to be regularly provided to both utilities and customers. With this architecture in place, utilities can send clear price signals to consumers on the true cost to deliver power, and customers can make more informed decision about their choice to either generate their own power or purchase power from their utility.
One example of where this discussion is already underway is in New York, where the New York Public Service Commission is leading the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. The REV initiative is designed to encourage clean energy innovation while improving consumer choice and affordability. To calculate the value of an energy source, New York is looking at the following features:
  • the equivalent kilowatt-hour that the local wholesale generator can earn;
  • the value of the energy power to the distribution system; and
  • the external societal value.
As the role of utilities and the grid changes to allow greater consumer choice and participation in energy markets, utilities and the grid must be enabled through policy and rate reform to integrate technology that can quantify the true value of power, regardless of source, based upon the time and location power is provided to the grid. Until that time, retail net-metering, more than any other policy, provides “rough justice” for the value of solar exported to the grid from DERs, and provides the fairest platform for consumer choice available.

5 unanswered questions after Tesla’s big solar roof and battery announcement

As the dust settles, the details of Elon Musk’s new solar-plus-storage offering remain unclear

For a while now, Tesla has situated itself as the Apple of the electric storage and transport industries. It streamlines the design of an existing technology, makes it sleeker and sexier, while expertly marketing it to cultivate an upscale, but mass-market following.

The company first did it with its electric vehicles, producing sought-after luxury cars and then gradually moving toward less expensive models. And it brought residential energy storage into the consumer mainstream last year when it unveiled the Powerpack, the first generation of its home battery.

Now Tesla is leveraging its planned acquisition of solar installer SolarCity to do the same thing with residential solar and storage. Last Friday, CEO Elon Musk unveiled a slate of integrated solar roof and battery storage offerings that mimic the design of traditional roof shingles and eliminate the external mounted panel design.

The glass PV tiles, available in a number of common roof colors, will cost “less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity,” Musk promised, and will integrate with the Powerwall 2, the second generation of Tesla’s home storage system.

That new battery is powerful enough to run the refrigerator, sockets and lights of a four-bedroom house for a day — or indefinitely when combined with the solar system, Musk said, touting a future where everyday consumers have a solar roof, battery and electric vehicle.

But like Tesla events of the past, those general operational and cost promises are about as much detail over the specifics of the battery and the solar system as Musk divulged all night. Details about the panel efficiency, battery life and overall cost were left out of Musk’s presentation, leaving a number of open questions about the sleek new Tesla offering and its potential impacts on the market.

1. Solar roof specifications

Just as Tesla was not the first to offer electric vehicles or home batteries, it is not the first in the integrated solar panel market.

While not widespread for the residential market yet, a number of large buildings have demonstrated the effectiveness of solar technologies integrated into their designs, including the National Air and Space Museum. And Greentech points out there are a number of integrated solar roof installers on the market already, though no runaway commercial successes.

Integrated PV technologies are appealing for their sleek design, but are more expensive than existing rooftop solar models that are simply bolted to a homeowner’s roof. Typically, integrated PV does not generate power with the efficiency of traditional panels, which can more easily be faced toward direct sunlight.

Beyond his promise that the Tesla roofs would cost less than traditional ones over time, Musk offered no pricing or efficiency details on the new solar roofs, as well as no insight as to how power contracts with consumers would be structured. Currently, SolarCity contracts typically guarantee solar output for 20 years, but most roofs are expected to last longer.

Other financial aspects of owning the PV roof, such as its impacts on a mortgage, resale value, homeowner’s insurance and other aspects of property value remain unclear, though those are issues that continue to bedevil the residential solar sector at large.

It also remains to be seen how the glass panels perform in the field. Typical solar panels require regular cleaning to achieve maximum output, and it’s unclear whether homeowners would have to regularly wipe down their PV rooftops to generate energy.

Tesla solar roof styles

 

Available in different styles, Telsa’s solar roofs are designed to mimic traditional styles.

 

2. Battery specifications

A bit more is known about the solar roof’s partner — the Powerpack 2.

At the event, Musk said the new 7 kW, 14 kWh battery will cost $5,500, including a custom inverter. That capacity outpaces both the first iteration of the Powerpack and a larger, 10 kWh model Tesla discontinued last year.

That size battery is likely better suited to the average American homeowner, GTM reports, but little is known beyond its size and price. Tesla did not release details about the expected efficiency or cycle life of the Powerwall 2, or the second iteration of its Powerpack grid-scale battery, released Thursday evening.

Cycle life, or the number of cycles a battery can perform before degrading to a certain level, is expected to be crucial for customers of both the residential and grid-scale batteries. Using a home battery to store and discharge solar from a PV roof typically uses at least one cycle a day, as do grid services such as ramping or shifting renewables generation.

The rate at which batteries degrade determines how long they can be used before needing replacement, and often forms the foundation of energy storage contracts with utilities. But Tesla has never publicly released degradation curves or other performance information regarding their energy storage systems or car batteries, which some companies consider proprietary information.

Tesla currently offers an eight-year “unlimited mile” warranty for its Model S electric vehicle batteries, but makes no commitment to replace the $44,000 car battery after that time.

survey of Tesla owners by EV advocate Plug In America last year showed that the Model S generally loses about 5% of its capacity within the first 50,000 miles of driving, but the jury is still out on how the batteries will perform once they reach the end of the warranty period.

tesla solar roof batteries

 

Tesla’s new Powerwall is more rectangular than its predecessor.

 

3. Solar and storage markets

But even if the integrated PV and storage market is not large yet, Tesla is not without competition.

There are a number of companies installing integrated solar roofing projects, Greentech notes, including names like SunTegra and Solarmass. There’s also a sizeable list of high-profile failures, like SunEdison’s Ready Solar and PV shingle offerings from Dow Chemical and PV.

As impressive as the design of integrated solar shingles is, Greentech’s Eric Wesoff points out that hasn’t been the biggest issue in commercializing it with other companies. Instead, it is launching a pricey, newfangled environmental technology through a conservative roofing industry.

“PV panels and roofing have very different roles, and I’ve observed that combining the two compromises both at a premium cost,” the editor wrote in an open letter to Musk.

If Tesla can succeed in convincing consumers and the broader industry that its roofs are indeed cheaper and more durable than traditional designs, its brand recognition and reputation could help it make inroads. But it remains to be seen how the company will go about sharing the technology behind its new combined offering.

Currently, Tesla makes many of its electric vehicle patents public, but other aspects of its business are strictly vertically integrated. The company does not sell its cars through third party dealerships and even uses a different charger outlet than other EVs.

With the planned merger with SolarCity, Tesla appears to be spreading that vertically integrated model to its energy offerings, creating an all-in-one distributed energy company. If it continues that trajectory, that could see it stop selling batteries to third-party installers like Sunrun, which currently uses Tesla batteries for its residential solar offering and would be a direct competitor with a merged Tesla.

4. The SolarCity merger

Musk’s event on Friday was about more than unveiling a new product — it was also a chance to show Tesla investors the promise of a merger with SolarCity, the largest residential rooftop installer in the U.S.

Since Tesla announced its intent to buy the company in June, some analysts and shareholders have reacted skeptically. Musk is SolarCity’s chair, his cousins run the company, and many saw the move as a bailout for the residential installer, whose business model relies on hefty debt financing to support its model of no-upfront-cost solar leases.

Tesla’s unexpected third quarter profit, reported last week, gave pause to some of the most anxious shareholders, and Musk’s unveiling of an exciting, integrated product could buoy support for the acquisition.

If that goes badly for Musk, the future of the new solar roof option appears in doubt. In a “master plan” for Tesla unveiled in the summer, Musk hinted at a new integrated solar offering and warned that it would be impossible to offer it if SolarCity remained a separate company.

Whether shareholders view the solar roof offering as an exciting new extension of Tesla’s business or a risky bet on an unfamiliar market remains to be seen. They vote on the merger Nov. 17.

5. Utility sector impact

Musk often frames his business moves as part of a larger strategy to clean up the electricity and transport sectors, allowing them to run on renewable energy and modern energy storage.

That broad vision is one shared by a number of policymakers, including U.S. leaders who signed the Paris Climate Accord last year. But just how deep that decarbonization of the power sector affects utilities remains to be seen.

Fossil generators are sure to feel the impacts, and many are already dealing with widespread coal plant retirements. But Musk said that the future for electric utilities in this cleaner future remains bright.

Powering new electric vehicles will increase demand for electricity, making utilities more critical to the modern energy system and assuaging concerns of a financial “death spiral” for the sector. Going forward, Musk predicted the grid will eventually reach an equilibrium with about one-third of power coming from distributed energy and two-thirds from utilities.

“I think it’s a very bright future for utilities and rooftop [solar],” he said.

View Original Post on:   http://www.utilitydive.com/news/5-unanswered-questions-after-teslas-big-solar-roof-and-battery-announcemen/429393/

India Tops 1GW Of Rooftop Solar

Energy Matters

Half of India’s now 1,020MW of rooftop solar capacity has been installed in the last 12 months according to Bridge To India – but clouds are gathering on the horizon.

The consultancy firm says the nation has added 513 MW of rooftop solar over the year to September 30.

A map (PDF) also recently published by the company indicates rooftop solar power system costs have fallen by 12% per annum on average in the last 4 years. It expects India’s total rooftop capacity to reach 12.7GW by 2021. It’s an impressive figure, but not in line with the country’s goals.

India has set its sights on a target of a total of 100 GW of solar energy capacity by 2022 through the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM). For rooftop solar, the target is 40GW by the same year. If Bridge To India’s 2021 rooftop PV projection is accurate, then 2022 will need to be a very, very busy year indeed.

India rooftop solar projections

Bridge To India states 22% of rooftop capacity installed in the last 12 months has been under an OPEX model (solar PPA). A third party developer finances and constructs the system at the customer’s premises and electricity generated by the solar panel array is sold to the customer under a long-term agreement. This arrangement has resulted in customers typically saving 20% – 30% on power costs  without needing to stump up any initial outlay.

While the model is understandably popular, all is not sunshine and puppies. It seems investors are nervous about sinking their cash into it.

“High perception of customer default risk and poor contract enforcement are affecting long-term growth prospects and flow of professional capital into this sector,” says the company; which believes OPEX is absolutely crucial in the country having a chance of meeting its solar goals.

If the problems plaguing the OPEX model can be addressed soon and investors flood in, then the installation ramp-up required can be more orderly.

As at 31 July 2016, the country had a cumulative total solar capacity of just over 8 gigawatts – no doubt the total has crept up quite a bit since then.

View original post on: http://www.energymatters.com.au/renewable-news/india-rooftop-solar-em5715/

Now THAT’S what you call a sun roof! Solar-powered car can travel 115 MILES on a single charge

In an effort to make cars more environmentally friendly, a German car company has looked to solar technology.

A prototype for a car has been developed which is adorned with solar panels.

The Sion car can travel up to 115 miles on a single charge and also uses the unexpected material of moss to ventilate the vehicle.

Scroll down for video

Researchers in Germany are pushing the panels to their limits, with the invention of a new car powered by the sun

Researchers in Germany are pushing the panels to their limits, with the invention of a new car powered by the sun

Sono Motors, a car company based in Munich, is now crowdfunding $200,000 (£154,000) to build the car, which is currently a prototype.

The self-charging car will get power from the solar panels fitted to its roof and sides, though drivers will also be able to use power outlets as an alternative.

Sion, which is expected to hit the roads in 2018, also features an unusual ventilation system fitted with moss.

The Icelandic strain of moss is claimed to have air-cleaning capabilities that can filter dust particles and act as a natural air filter.

The self-charging car will get power from the solar panels fitted to its roof and sides, though drivers will also be able to use power outlets as an alternative

The self-charging car will get power from the solar panels fitted to its roof and sides, though drivers will also be able to use power outlets as an alternative

Two models will be available – the ‘Urban’ designed to travel 75 miles will be priced at $13,000 (£9,940), and an ‘Extender’ model that will travel up to 115 miles on a single charge and cost $18,000 (£13,770).

The car is a six-seater, with three front seats, and three in the back, which can be flipped down to provide more room for storage.

THE URBAN VERSUS THE EXTENDER 
URBAN EXTENDER
Price $13,000 (£9,940) $18,000 (£13,770)
Range 120 kilometres (75 miles) 250 kilometres (115 miles)
Charging Power 43 kilowatts 22 kilowatts
Time to charge to 80% 30 minutes 30 minutes
The car is a six-seater, with three front seats, and three in the back, which can be flipped down to provide more room for storage

The car is a six-seater, with three front seats, and three in the back, which can be flipped down to provide more room for storage

Laurin Hahn from Sono Motors, said: ‘We started four years ago in a garage and soon got bigger and moved to a bigger workshop.

‘The team got bigger and we managed to finish our first pre-prototype in early 2016.

‘At that time we founded the Sono Motors.

USING MOSS FOR VENTILATION

A unique moss is integrated into the dashboard and used as a natural air filter.

A special lichen moss is used, which is known for its appealing look and excellent air filtration.

In spite of the naturalness of the moss, it actually requires no care, since the plant draws its water from the air, acting as a natural air conditioner.

The microstructures of moss binds fine dust particles from the air, so even in a big city, you can breathe fresh air.

‘Right from the beginning we had the plan of doing a crowdfunding campaign.

‘It was always on our mind to make this happen with all the people out there, who want to see the same change as us.’

As well as charging the vehicles, the solar panels can be plugged in to other devices, such as cooking stoves, to provide power.

Sion, which is expected to hit the roads in 2018, also features an unusual ventilation system fitted with moss. The Icelandic strain of moss is claimed to have air-cleaning capabilities that can filter dust particles and act as a natural air filter

Sion, which is expected to hit the roads in 2018, also features an unusual ventilation system fitted with moss. The Icelandic strain of moss is claimed to have air-cleaning capabilities that can filter dust particles and act as a natural air filter

Sono Motors, a car company based in Munich, is now crowdfunding $200,000 (£154,000) to build the car, which is currently a prototype (pictured)

Sono Motors, a car company based in Munich, is now crowdfunding $200,000 (£154,000) to build the car, which is currently a prototype (pictured)

As well as charging the vehicles, the solar panels can be plugged in to other devices, such as cooking stoves, to provide power

As well as charging the vehicles, the solar panels can be plugged in to other devices, such as cooking stoves, to provide power

View original post on: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3803758/Now-S-call-sun-roof-Solar-powered-car-travel-115-MILES-single-charge.html#v-8421778707531480634