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Indian solar industry has scaled great heights surpassing 10 GW in 2017, from a meagre 10 MW in 2010. Even without huge industrial muscles that other countries keep on flexing, India braved all odds showing continued growth in the solar vertical. From 2015 to the beginning of 2017, Indian solar sector has successfully doubled its solar capacity (5GW in 2015- 10GW in 2017), earning commendations in the global podium and inspiring developing countries to venture ahead. Obviously, Hon’ble Prime minister Shri Narendra Modi created the urgency in the green energy shift by announcing development of 100 GW solar-installed capacity by 2022, which served as the ignition for upward growth that the Indian solar sector is displaying. And it is easy to understand that this much needed boost will bring numerous opportunities.

However, the obvious question surfacing from this equation is- ‘whether the opportunities will be for domestic manufacturers or not?’ The legitimacy or relevance of this question is absolute, since Indian solar reliance and the foundation of an energy rich future is closely tied to the improvement of domestic manufacturers (for details on how domestic manufacturing and Indian solar success is connected click here). Therefore, it is important to understand how this growth is shaping our future.

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Understanding the Glitches

Subsidies and rebates on capital expenditures, additional one-time allowance, tax-free grants, and acceptance to foreign investments have helped domestic manufacturing to flourish in India. And continuous support from the Indian Government (through a plethora of policies) has led these initiatives into success. However, India is spending more in importing solar modules (USD 980 million) than gaining from exporting them (USD 50 million, Sept 2016). This is surprising since India wants to claim a sizable portion of the global solar market and kick back the profits (of exports) for socio-economic reform. Chinese module suppliers have increased their market share in Indian PV market to 75 per cent from 50 per cent last year. And recent market analysis reveals that 8 out of top 10 module suppliers in the Indian market are Chinese. All of this points towards growth devoid of domestic manufacturing progress, which is another way of saying ‘a sound yet unstable solar energy future for India’.

China can produce and sell solar modules at a price range cheaper by INR 5-6 per panel than domestic products (aggressive pricing is the main reason behind India importing Chinese modules), because of volume scale, cheap energy and access to low-cost capital. Additionally, the lack of a uniform quality control for solar modules in India makes it easier for China and other foreign suppliers to introduce low quality modules in our energy mix. Low quality imported modules will untimely add extra expenses in repair or replacement processes, slowing down ‘power for all’ initiatives and affect the trust on the green energy shift.

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The Remedy

To ensure India’s vision of self-reliance besides reaching 100 GW target, Government should consider placing MIPs (minimum import price) on imported solar modules. Foreign solar players are selling their modules in India at a lower rate than their actual (global) price. And as India lacks a uniform quality assessment regulation, importers are finding it very easy to dump low quality modules in the market. This practice is recognized by the industry leaders as ‘e-waste dumping’. Having scale and Government subsidies, Chinese solar players can afford to sell their modules at a lower cost than domestic companies do; ultimately, curbing demand for domestic modules and shrinking Indian solar growth.

However, making sure that imported modules cannot be sold in the Indian market below a certain price limit, can bottleneck low quality product access in the country; and help domestic manufacturers to compete on a level playing field. We can look at EU’s MIP imposition on imported solar equipment for example. European Union has changed the MIPs from time to time, going back and forth from 0.56 Euro/Wp to 0.53 Euro/Wp to maintain a healthy demand for domestic manufacturers.

India uses MIPs to regulate the access of imported steel in its market, to safeguard the domestic manufacturers and sellers. Moreover, judging from domestic steel manufacturers’ recent request to Government for continuation of MIPs, we can speculate that it has benefited the industry. The same can be done for the solar industry, mirroring EU’s steps to utilize International trade and competition rules to create a standard quality for import modules and assuring a better future for nation’s solar industry.

Imposing MIP is just one of the many remedies that can help India’s internal solar growth to centralize industry within borderlines. Current growth has paved a path for a better future, but domestic manufacturing is needed to turn the possibilities into reality.

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Vancouver, Canada, Sept. 20, 2016 – Schneider Electric, the global specialist in energy management and automation, has announced Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) will fund the commercialization of its Smart Energy Storage Solution (SmartESS) inverter.

The contract with SDTC, an arm’s-length foundation of the Government of Canada, for the development of clean technologies solutions, will enable Schneider Electric to develop SmartESS inverter solutions in the T’Sou-ke First Nation, a native community located on the south shore of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island.

“T’Sou-ke Nation welcomes the opportunity to partner with Schneider Electric to continue to develop the role of solar power in bringing sustainable energy solutions to ‘on’ and ‘off-grid’ First Nation communities, as well as to our wider society,” said T’Sou-ke First Nation Chief, Gordon Planes.

The SmartESS platform is a transformerless, all-in-one, wall-mounted inverter combining a hybrid battery and solar photovoltaic (PV) inverter. This project will create a connected and integrated solution that provides increased performance, reliability, and simplicity at a cost lower than existing solutions. For this project, Schneider Electric, with consortium partner Rainforest Automation, will provide the cloud connectivity and energy management to the SmartESS to demonstrate it as part of project. It is ideal for T’Sou-ke First Nation because it has been designed to address the power and energy needs of residences, small commercial businesses, off-grid communities and energy service providers.

“The decentralization, decarbonization and digitization of our grid requires us to make greater investments in innovative solutions that can help meet the world’s energy challenge. We believe the development of our SmartESS inverter will be critical to advancing solar development in Canada and sustainability for future generations,” said Xavier Datin, Vice President of Solar Off-grid and Residential at Schneider Electric. “The grant from the SDTC will allow us to bring a reliable, powerful and environmentally safe energy solution to an area where it would otherwise not be available. Their commitment to spur the development and demonstration of innovative, clean technologies, such as the SmartESS solution, in these rural areas will benefit us all as global citizens.”

“Sustainable Development Technology Canada is very proud to support the commercialization of Schneider Electric’s innovative technology,” said Leah Lawrence, SDTC President and Chief Executive Officer. “This project will create green jobs for the local economy, increase efficiency in the sector and provide economic and environmental benefits for all Canadians.”

The grant builds on Schneider Electric’s commitment to driving innovation in the solar power industry and to developing sustainable energy solutions to ensure everyone around the globe has access to affordable, reliable and efficient energy. For more information about Schneider Electric’s innovative solar solutions, please visit www.solar.schneider-electric.com.

About Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is the global specialist in energy management and automation. With revenues of ~€27 billion in FY2015, our 160,000+ employees serve customers in over 100 countries, helping them to manage their energy and process in ways that are safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable. From the simplest of switches to complex operational systems, our technology, software and services improve the way our customers manage and automate their operations. Our connected technologies reshape industries, transform cities and enrich lives. At Schneider Electric, we call this Life Is On.

www.schneider-electric.com

Discover Life is On

About SDTC

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is an arm’s-length foundation created by the Government of Canada to support innovative and entrepreneurial clean technology projects. Our portfolio of companies develop and demonstrate new technologies that address issues related to climate change, air quality, clean water and soil.

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StrategicAmpersand Inc. (For Schneider Electric)
Cindy Watson / Sachin Persaud
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Schneider Electric Sees U.S. as a Growth Market for Utility-Scale Solar Projects

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Along with innovations in solar technology, we placed a strong focus on the growth of the U.S. utility-scale market at this year’s Solar Power International (SPI) in Las Vegas, Nevada. SPI is the largest solar show in North America, with a 20% increase in overall attendance in 2016.

The U.S. continues to be one of the biggest markets for utility-scale solar projects, boosted by multi-year extension of Federal ITC and various state level policies and legislation. With approximately 36 GW expected to be installed in the next five years, utility-scale solar power generation has become a critical element of U.S. power generation infrastructure.

The U.S. is also expected to be the first major market to adopt 1500-volt technology, helping to further optimize the Levelized Cost of Energy from solar. At SPI we completed the U.S. launch of the Conext SmartGen, a cloud-connected 1500-volt utility-scale power conversion system for PV and energy storage applications. By combining the best in power electronics design with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and data analytics technologies, the Conext SmartGen reduces power plant operating expenses and at the same time increases system availability and total power generation.

With proven expertise in energy management, solar, and storage, we are focused on delivering bankable technology solutions for safe, reliable, and sustainable power generation.  We look forward to continuing this discussion with our customers at Energy Storage North America 2016 at booth 520 in San Diego from October 4-6.

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Schneider Electric Energy Storage Solutions

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At its core an Energy Storage System (ESS) is comprised of three major components each bearing equal importance. The battery which is the energy container; the Power Conversion System (PCS) or inverter which interfaces the DC battery system to the AC power system; and the Power Plant Controller (PPC) which governs, monitors and executes the intended functions of the energy storage application.

Although we have no choice but to accept that the battery is the consumable component, the balance of system of an ESS should not be regarded as such. While heavy emphasis is typically placed on the choice of battery technology, it is important to understand that poor selection of the other two core components can severely impact the performance, lifetime and return on investment of the ESS. In this article we will seek to shed some light on the importance of the PCS and the PPC.

The Power Conversion System (inverter)

The PCS can be subjected to brutal utilization as it may be expected to handle varying power levels in both directions 24 hours per day. The stresses imparted on the PCS can easily make it the weakest link.

When procuring a PCS, system owners should select power conversion technology that is designed for high reliability and availability, and up to three decades of service life. It is also essential that the equipment can be operator maintained, tracked, and managed. The PCS should be designed with grid support functionality and should facilitate upgrades as the energy ecosystem advances.

Owners and operators should favor flexible and easily transportable architectures that can be repurposed as needs evolve. Most importantly, they should choose suppliers that will stick around for the long haul.

 The Power Plant Controller

Many are of the opinion that an energy storage control system is not difficult to implement. This outlook is based on assumptions that the hardware can be assembled from off-the-shelf components, and that there is an abundance of skilled software programmers to create algorithms. Energy storage is a critical power application and as such controlling it is by no means a trivial task.

Some argue that since ESS controls is a new technology sector, there are no real industry experts or veterans. On the contrary, those with experience in critical industrial and power systems controls are indeed the experts who can utilize equipment and best practices from those applications to create solid energy storage control platforms. It is imperative that control system providers have the means and experience to address important factors such as redundancy and cybersecurity.

All considered, system owners should select the ESS control provider based on demonstrated success and experience in related critical power control systems and industrial automation. They should also consider the longevity and staying power of the provider they choose.

The bottom line is that the PCS and Plant Controller are just as important to the ESS as is the battery. A poor choice of one or both of these two core components can result in an unprofitable and dysfunctional ESS that will be fraught with recurring repair and replacement costs.

For more information about Energy Storage, visit us at booth 520 at Energy Storage North America 2016 in San Diego from October 4-6.

Want to learn more about Energy Storage? Watch the video here.

Read more: Energy Storage Systems: more than just the battery

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In 1987, the Brundtland Report was published and the term sustainable development  was coined. One of the key concepts of the Brundtland report has been to give priority to the needs of the world’s poor. However, 20 years after its publication, 1.1 billion people worldwide are still lacking the basic access to electricity and 87 percent live in rural areas. At Schneider Electric, sustainability is at the heart of our company strategy and we strive to solve the global energy dilemma as we believe that access to energy is a basic human right.

Yet today’s energy demands on the planet are enormous with global primary energy demand expected to increase 32 percent by 2040. How do we meet the increased energy demand while undertaking the challenge of bringing clean energy to everyone? How can we balance this energy paradox responsibly? Our future depends on how we meet the energy challenge and how we create more efficient, more sustainable and more innovative solutions to ensure that Life is On™ everywhere.

2 degrees Celsius

This is the limit in global temperature rise if we are to avoid irreversible damage to our planet and thus our society. To keep global temperatures from rising, greenhouse gas emissions need to fall as much as 70% around the world by 2050 and to zero by the end of this century. Yet, greenhouse gas emissions will rise with the increase in energy demand while a decrease by 41% is required for the world to achieve the environmental targets, outlined at Paris Climate Conference (COP21). We are committed to solving this challenge and at COP21 in December 2015 we announced to become a carbon neutral company by 2030 with 10 commitments to support our sustainability objectives.

Our continuous efforts in sustainability haven’t gone unnoticed and we have been named Industry Leader in the DJSI World and Europe Index for the 4th consecutive year. The index is the result of annual evaluation of companies’ sustainability practices in which over 3,400 listed companies around the world are analyzed, based on questions focusing on economic, environmental and social factors. While we are honoured by this recognition, climate change remains a global challenge and a challenge for everyone.

Tackling the energy challenge

Energy efficiency targets can only be met through the right energy mix with a focus on increasing the share of renewable energy and innovative solutions. Solar energy combined with our innovative solar and energy storage solutions provide a reliable, powerful and environmentally safe alternative. With more than 15 years of experience in solar and energy storage management, we help companies minimize their carbon footprint and meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

For more information, view Strategy & Sustainability Highlights 2015 – 2016.

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Tokyo, Japan, November 1, 2016 – As one of Japan’s leading renewable energy independent power producers, Nippon Renewable Energy K.K. (representative: Adam Ballin, main office: Minato-ku, Tokyo, hereinafter: “NRE”) and Schneider Electric, the global specialist in energy management and automation (representative: Kosuke Matsuzaki, main office: Minato-ku, Tokyo), announced a comprehensive technology partnership in conjunction with the commissioning of NRE’s latest 36MW solar power plant, Mito Solar Power Plant, located in Mito city, Ibaraki Prefecture (“Mito Solar”).

Mito Solar is NRE’s largest commissioned solar power plant to date and forms part of a 510MW solar generation portfolio across 9 prefectures in Japan. Mito Solar generates 43,420MWh of energy per annum and occupies 42 hectares on the site of a former golf course. On an annual basis, it provides 8,713 households with electricity, saves 25,326 tons of CO2 as well as 43.3 million liters of water. In addition, its construction created 250 local jobs for civil, electrical and construction contractors.

NRE is headquartered in Tokyo with three offices in Aomori, Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures. NRE is focused on the long-term ownership and operation of solar power plants incorporating the highest standards of technological and operational excellence. As a vertically integrated IPP, NRE has the in-house capabilities to take projects from initial planning to commercial operations, covering all phases of project development and financing, technical engineering, construction management, and operations and maintenance. It operates with a fully integrated local team of 57 professionals with expertise in land acquisition, technical design, project management and O&M.

In recognition of Schneider Electric’s expertise in containerized power conversion technology, NRE and Schneider Electric have established a technology framework agreement to deploy Schneider Electric’s proprietary PV-BOX systems on 17 future solar project sites (10 of which are under construction). This is in addition to the 5 sites (105MW) that NRE has already installed Schneider PV-BOX systems. By combining the main power conversion equipment into a single package, the PV-BOX reduces system costs and space, while improving maintainability.

NRE has also partnered with Schneider Electric to provide electrical O&M services across its 510MW solar portfolio. Schneider Electric will co-locate 20 professionals at NRE’s offices in order to provide a market leading quality of service on the preventative and corrective maintenance of inverters and all related AC equipment including transformers, MV switchgears, DC boxes, array boxes and control monitoring systems via a 98% availability guarantee and 24 hour emergency response times. NRE will utilize Schneider Electric’s proprietary monitoring and data analysis systems, Conext Controls and Conext Advisor, to ensure optimal performance management on each solar plant.

“NRE is committed to the long term success and viability of the Japanese renewable energy industry, and the strengthening of Japan’s overall energy security. We are working diligently to build and operate facilities that produce clean, safe and sustainable electricity that we and the local community can take pride in. In order to enhance our position as a leading industry player, NRE will continue to adapt its business to embrace changes in the Feed-in-Tariff scheme, recent electricity deregulation, regulatory developments and technological enhancements,” said Adam Ballin, Representative Director of NRE.

“Schneider Electric is excited to form a strong partnership with NRE in both inverter components and electrical maintenance services to contribute to the effective and efficient operation of renewable energy facilities in Japan by providing products and solutions that are highly reliable and offer a good return on investment,” said Pierre-Emmanuel Frot, Solar Power Generation Global Business Vice President at Schneider Electric.

NRE strives to serve as a responsible Japanese corporate citizen and member of its local communities with CSR initiatives centered on education, health and environmental awareness. NRE has partnered with Schneider Electric to donate 10kW solar systems to local public schools to provide free electricity and educate students on the benefits of renewable energy.

 

About Nippon Renewable Energy K.K.

Nippon Renewable Energy K.K. is an independent Japanese renewable energy utility business with its head office in Tokyo, Japan and local offices in Aomori, Ibaraki and Fukushima prefectures. NRE employs a strong local team of experienced development, design, project management engineers and investment professionals who are designing, financing, constructing and operating over 500MW in Japan. For further information about Nippon Renewable Energy, please visit http://nipponenergy.co.jp/en/

About Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is the global specialist in energy management and automation. With revenues of ~€27 billion in FY2015, our 160,000+ employees serve customers in over 100 countries, helping them to manage their energy and process in ways that are safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable. From the simplest of switches to complex operational systems, our technology, software and services improve the way our customers manage and automate their operations. Our connected technologies reshape industries, transform cities and enrich lives. At Schneider Electric, we call this Life Is On. www.schneider-electric.com

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Living at the edge of the grid, a distant community in Western Australia experienced severe power quality and uptime issues. Bush fire, a natural disaster common in the area knocked down the poles and overhead lines, with a high cost for the local utility to restore and maintain. Thomson Solar and Schneider Electric partnered to create a solution by powering the community with a standalone off-grid system. This solution is replicable to all small and mid-size dwellings living at the edge of the grid suffering from power-quality issues and where utilities must invest a large amount to maintain the commitment of reliable power for a small customer base.

As the homeowners were electing not to reconnect to the local utility grid, the system had to meet certain operating standards. The goal was to generate electricity on-site independently of the grid, using storage to assist in operating large three-phase loads while also providing power at night and during cloudy conditions. The system was designed to provide grid autonomy, yet with no undue inconvenience for the homeowners.

Schneider Electric provided a solution at a fraction of the cost of replacing power poles and overhead lines. The entire system is self-contained, and was deployed in a short time frame to restore power to the site. It shows that solar energy can be more cost-effective. This, in short, is the promise of standalone energy systems.

Read our full case study to learn more about this project, and why the Conext XW inverter charger was chosen for this project.

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No decision has more impact on the system cost and performance than the choice of inverters as this dictates design constraints for much of the balance of system. Today, system designers have more options than ever when architecting solar systems. While this may seem like a great advantage, these options necessitate an ever-growing number of decision points in the design process.

Before selecting brand or model the designer must first choose the macro level class of inverters, central or three phase string inverters. Until recently, the normalized price of string inverters (as measured in $/W) was much higher than central inverters, making the decision to use central inverters for utility-scale quite straightforward. That unit price gap has greatly diminished, resulting in a heightened debate on the relative merits of central and string inverters, often without empirical data to support the arguments.

The jury is still out on which is the so-called “best solution” and likely for good reason as the overall system size has such a significant impact on the relevant answer. In my article for Renewable Energy World, I analyzed the relative merits of central and string inverters in a typical system in North America.

The analysis is limited to the relative costs of central and string inverters for utility-scale projects in North America in three areas: CAPEX, inverter service life and true cost of service.

Read article on RenewableEnergyWorld.com or view in-depth version with further analysis of utility-scale system performance requirements and operating efficiency here.

Read more: Comparing Central Inverters and String Inverters...

Renewable energy, for three years running, has accounted for more new power generation capacity installed worldwide than all other sources combined. In 2015, over USD 270 billion were invested in solar PV and wind power, boosting capacity by 47 GW 63 GW respectively. This capacity is expected to only grow and efforts are now focusing on implementing an innovative enabling framework to integrate these technologies at the scale needed. But that is not a simple task and questions still remain: what technologies and tool are part of the power sector transformation? What still needs to be developed? And how can IRENA assist?

Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General“[For developing countries] I think the only solution is a renewable solution”— Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General“The transformation of the energy sector towards a renewables-based one is moving forward at an accelerated pace. Nowhere is this revolution more evident than in the power sector,” said Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General, at the opening Ministerial Roundtable, Towards an Economy Fuelled by Renewable Power: Innovation for the Next Stage of the Power Sector Transformation, held on 14 January 2017 at IRENA’s 7th Assembly.

Government officials from around the world gathered to discuss the ongoing power sector transformation, and converse with prominent executives from the energy industry on its future development and outlook.

New challenges

Francesco Storace, CEO of Enel“An average 10-year-old wind farm in Europe would produce 50-70% more power with today’s technology” — Francesco Starace, CEO of Enel

Integrating high shares of variable renewable energy in power systems, is a challenge not only from the perspective of securing the power supply, but also from the perspective of how to manage the surplus power from these sources.

Peder Andreasen, President of ENTSO-E“Don’t wait for future renewable technologies, go for it today. We can easily reach fifty, sixty, seventy percent of variable renewables in the energy mix” — Peder Andreasen, President of ENTSO-E

In some countries at certain times, variable renewable power generation exceeds demand. Windy days in Denmark can produce 116% of the domestic power demand, and a share as high as 140% was reached in July 2015. In Portugal, wind power produced up to 65% of domestic power demand on some days in December 2015. On 8 May 2016, 95% of Germany’s domestic power demand was supplied by solar PV and wind power, and exports of electricity surged.

Innovative flexibility options

Rainer Baake, State Secretary of Germany“We need flexibility, and storage is one flexibility. New storage technology that can bridge periods of two weeks.” — Rainer Baake, State Secretary of Germany

Energy experts and country representatives agreed that a holistic innovation approach is needed to tackle this challenge. Innovations ranging from technology to market design and business models all have a role to play. Part of the solution lies in implementing innovative flexibility measures in the power system, including additional cross-border interconnections, electricity storage systems, demand side management strategies, and advanced weather forecasting.

Luiz Augusto Barroso, President of Empresa de Pesquisa Energética“We like renewables because their short construction time is a hedge against economic uncertainty” — Luiz Augusto Barroso, President of Empresa de Pesquisa Energética

Luiz Barroso President of Brazil’s Energy Research Company, explained the country’s use of renewable energy auctions and biofuels, and highlighted how hydro and renewables can be used to leverage both technologies, something recently explored in IRENA’s market analysis of Latin America.

Barroso highlighted that although financing is available, risk allocation and business models are everything to tap these resources. “We like renewables because their short construction time is a hedge against economic uncertainty,” he told the Ministerial Roundtable, while explaining that currency risk can be an issue in emerging economies.

The outcomes of the Ministerial Roundtable was reported back to the Assembly, and will further feed into IRENA work, particularly IRENA’s two alternating biennial activities regarding the power sector transformation; the IRENA Innovation Week, which was last held in 2016; and the Innovation landscape report for the power sector transformation, which is expected to come out later this year. They will highlight not only technological innovations, but the market, regulatory, and business model changes that are making the up-scaling of variable renewables possible.

To learn more about innovation, check out IRENA’s innovation outlook reports on offshore wind power, advanced liquid biofuels, and renewable mini-grids.

Read more: Transforming the Power Sector, at IRENA...

Spurred by ambitious national commitments, international agreements and rapid technological progress, governments are increasingly choosing renewable energy to expand their countries’ power infrastructures. In 2014, renewables provided 23% of power generation worldwide, and with the adoption of more ambitious plans and policies, this could reach 45% by 2030.

Amid this accelerating transition, the variability of solar and wind energy — two key sources for renewable power generation — presents new challenges. It also raises questions, like ‘How do you power a country when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining?’ and ‘How does variable power fit with the delivery of reliable electricity?’

“Energy planners have always had to deal with variability and uncertainty to some extent, but the challenges that variable renewable energy (VRE) poses to the power sector are in many ways distinct,” says Dolf Gielen, Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre. “Pro-active planners, in both developed and developing economies, should aim to address these challenges directly, starting with today’s long-term investment choices.”

IRENA’s new report, Planning for the renewable future: Long-term modelling and tools to expand variable renewable power in emerging economies, released during the 2017 World Future Energy Summit, offers guidance to energy decision makers and planners on large-scale integration of variable renewables into the power grid. It also advises energy modellers on practical VRE modelling methodologies for long-term scenario planning.

Modelling reality

“Various modelling tools are available to support long-term scenarios, defined as periods covering 20 to 40 years into the future, and we discuss these tools in depth in the report,” says Asami Miketa, a programme officer for Energy Planning at IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre. “Energy policy-making has always benefited from quantitative scenarios created with modelling tools, as they help define long-term policy goals and determine optimal economic investment pathways.”

Solar PV power and wind power for a summer and winter week in Europe, compared to a time slice approximation with 16 time slicesSolar irradiance has distinct daily and seasonal patterns. This is less the case for wind, particularly on a daily basis, as its patterns are often influenced by the prevailing local meteorological conditions at a given time.

The report’s first half, which is devoted to guiding decision makers in the transition to VRE, underlines the need for an internally consistent approach — with clear parameters and policy goals that are aligned across planning priorities over different time horizons. “Feedback among planning processes as well as different stakeholders must be taken into account when assessing high shares of VRE in a power system,” says Miketa. “This is to accommodate for spatial and operational issues that could change the cost-effectiveness of long-term planning scenarios, like the need for greater flexibility in a system or even additional transmission capacity.”

Long-term models used for planning VRE are covered in the report’s second half. Models need to account for a wide range of long-term investment implications of VRE deployment. Practical approaches, tools and data have already been developed in some markets to address issues like generation adequacy, flexibility, location siting, and the stability of a power system. The report advises countries to start simple with VRE planning and to take a strategic approach to advance the scope and quality of their models.

“Though solar and wind power have now become cheap, taking advantage of these technologies requires careful planning and modelling,” says Miketa. “This report, and IRENA’s guidance, should help emerging economies to set themselves on a path towards sustainable development with renewables.”

To learn more about variable renewable energy planning and modelling, read the report on IRENA’s website.

Read more: Planning for Solar and Wind

Over a billion people in rural and peri-urban areas live without electricity, and another 2.9 billion rely on traditional fuels (like firewood) for cooking and heating. The Sustainable Development Goals recognise that bringing affordable electricity access to these people will enable increased productivity, higher incomes, improved food and water security, enhanced access to healthcare and education, and a host of other benefits towards developing communities and raising people out of poverty.

But what’s the best way to sustainably bring electricity access to people and gain this myriad of benefits in a timely manner? Off-grid renewables offer one approach that fulfils these needs and is both economical and good for the environment.

How off-grid renewables can be best integrated into national electrification strategies and maximise socioeconomic benefits, was the focus of discussion at IRENA’s 7th Assembly’s Ministerial Roundtable, Catalysing off-grid renewable energy deployment – Towards universal electricity access and the attainment of SDGs, held on 15 January 2017 in Abu Dhabi.

Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General“A few years ago, off-grid renewables were a social charity. Today it’s a business, and entrepreneurs are delivering energy access now.” — Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General

“Renewable energy provides a unique opportunity to reconcile multiple sustainable development objectives while offering a viable solution for catalysing socio-economic development,” said Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General, at the opening of the discussion. “Off-grid solutions can empower rural communities to catalyse local economies, increase incomes, escape the poverty trap, and contribute to the development of resilient and sustainable energy infrastructure.”

Convening thought leaders in the sector

The Ministerial Roundtable discussion was complemented by insights from a high-level panel constituting key international (e.g. African Development Bank, Sustainable Energy for All) and private sector (e.g. Mobisol, SELCO, Azuri Technologies) actors. The dynamism of the discussion was remarkable and it was clear that the question is not why but how — how to deploy off-grid solutions faster and at scale.

Several governments recognized the substantial socio-economic benefits on offer and the advantages offered by off-grid solutions in terms of scale, pace and livelihood-impact, and demonstrated the will, targets, and plans to support off-grid renewable energy deployment.

Harish Hande, Managing Director of SELCO“We need to look at off-grid in the manner that it delivers services, not electricity.” — Harish Hande, Co-Founder of SELCO

Speakers said that to accelerate the pace of off-grid renewable energy deployment, planners need to rethink solutions and approaches for electrification, and develop integrated planning processes that consider the viability of grid-based and off-grid solutions — this will promote that adequate electricity access be delivered sustainably and timely. They emphasised that governments need to look at access from a ‘delivery of services’ perspective and not the number of Mega-watts alone, and that focusing on education, health and productive end-uses will enable customisation of energy solutions and maximise socio-economic impacts.

These outcomes from the Ministerial Roundtable echoed those from last September’s the 3rdInternational Off-grid Renewable Energy Conference (IOREC).

Creating an ecosystem to accelerate deployment

Thomas Duveau, Mobisol’s Head of Business Development“All the small businesses that I know in sub-Saharan Africa can be powered by solar.” — Thomas Duveau, Mobisol’s Head of Business Development

“Ensuring access to modern energy is critical for achieving sustainable development goals,” said Tone Skogen, Norway’s State Secretary and moderator of the Roundtable. Efforts are needed to accelerate the pace of off-grid renewable energy deployment, and this requires an enabling environment hinged on tailored policy and regulations, customised financing and business models, capacity building, and innovative technology solutions.

As touched upon in the previous day’s Legislator’s Forum, policies and regulations play a central role in promoting off-grid renewable energy development. At IOREC 2016,  IRENA released a major report focusing on policy and regulatory design for mini-grid development, along with a report focusing on ongoing and future technology innovations in renewable mini-grids..

Ali Ahmad Osmani, Afghanistan’s Minister of Energy and Water“Least developed countries have two big challenges: energy quantity and quality. Governments need to focus on speeding up accessibility.” — Ali Ahmad Osmani, Afghanistan’s Minister of Energy and Water

The discussion during the Ministerial Roundtable highlighted that besides the generation technology, innovation on the appliance side, including those for productive uses (e.g. welding machines, agro-processing equipment) and public services (e.g. healthcare equipment), have the potential to transform the lives of millions with new economic possibilities and social inclusion. As an example, IRENA’s earlier work demonstrated the wide range of benefits that could be realized from deploying decentralised renewable energy solutions in the agri-food chain.

Michal Kurtyka, Undersecretary of State of Poland’s Ministry of Energy“Local mobilisation of renewables is important to get not just electricity, but education and health services too.” — Michal Kurtyka, Undersecretary of State of Poland’s Ministry of Energy

Access to affordable and long-term financing for end-users and entrepreneurs was highlighted as key for catalyzing growth in the off-grid renewable sector. In particular, the importance of unlocking asset-based financing for rural consumers and levering on microcredit delivery was emphasised to be important. The importance of innovative financing tools, including provision of guarantees for de-risking private sector investments and local currency loans, was also highlighted.

The development of technical capacity unanimously came across as key for ensuring that technology solutions are adapted to local conditions. These capacities need to be developed across the value chain, including among regulators, financing institutions and communities.

Building partnerships towards a common objective

The Ministerial Roundtable concluded with an emphasis on the importance of partnerships and collaboration. In achieving the objective of universal access to electricity, partnerships and international cooperation, as well as peer-to-peer learning will be key to maximise efficiency and impact of efforts and resources.

Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All“I’m heartened by how the conversation here has changed. This is not development as usual. This is different.” — Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All

The outcomes of the Ministerial Roundtable were reported back to the Assembly, and will further feed into IRENA’s future work on policy and regulatory analysis, entrepreneurship promotion, data and information gathering, tools development and country-level support.

To learn more about off-grid renewables, check out IRENA’s recently released key findings and recommendations from its International Off-grid Renewable Energy Conference.

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Read more: Ministers Gather to Discuss Development with...

At a media frenzied event last March, electric car manufacturer, Tesla, unveiled its Model 3. Priced to compete with conventional fossil-fuelled vehicles, it attracted over 325,000 reservations within a week.  The hype built around this vehicle, and several other fast and slick electric cars, is but a symptom of a much larger and growing movement across the motor vehicle industry, to cut the transport sector’s oil addiction and switch to electric power.

Globally the stock of electric vehicles is on the rise, and in 2015 more than one million electric vehicles were on the road. That number grew to more than two million in 2016, with China, the US, and several European countries leading the way in uptake.

“There are many factors that have led to this surge in uptake. Strong technological progress, the implementation of policies, and cost reductions, particularly in batteries, have all played a part,” says Dolf Gielen, Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre. “Despite on-going battery performance improvements and cost reductions, electric vehicles still face obstacles, and overcoming them will be key to getting electric vehicle adoption to move forward.”

Moving forward

IRENA’s newly released technology brief on the state of Electric Vehicles, suggests four concurrent general strategies to maximise their benefits. These strategies include increasing electric vehicle deployment; providing sufficient charging equipment for more electric vehicles; decarbonising electricity generation with more renewable energy; and integrating electric vehicles into renewable energy-powered grids.

“The public already perceives electric vehicles as providing an excellent driving experience, and new models being introduced this year and next, will have much greater driving range than most of today’s. But finding ways to encourage people to switch to electric, is still necessary,” says IRENA analyst Francisco Boshell. “Strong policies to reduce the cost of electric vehicles, provide driving and parking advantages, and ensure sufficient recharging infrastructure, will likely be needed for at least another five to ten years, to have a chance for rapid sales growth and to achieve target stock levels by 2030.”Projections of electric vehicle sales required to meet IRENA estimates, shown with the global passenger car sales by market, 2015-2030

In IRENA’s renewable energy transport roadmap, The Renewable Route to Sustainable Transport, the Agency estimates that there could be as many as 160 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030 (about 10% of the passenger car fleet). They would not just serve to lower levels of air pollution in cities, but also provide significant battery capacity in some markets to support variable renewable energy — like wind and solar — at significantly larger scale.

“Electric vehicles create a paradigm shift for both the transport and power sectors,” explains Boshell. “They can support variable renewable power growth through optimised charging schemes such as time-variable smart charging, and vehicle to grid electricity supply.”

Electric benefits

Replacing conventional vehicles with electric ones comes with many benefits, including reduced noise pollution, and zero tailpipe emissions — meaning less local air pollution. Depending on the power generation of the city or region, electric vehicles can also lower carbon dioxide emissions and so play a role in averting climate change.

“Governments should also consider promoting electric two-wheelers and electric buses as a way of reducing pollution and noise in populated and urban regions,” says Nicholas Wagner, coordinator of IRENA’s transport analysis. Worldwide, the external costs of air pollution relating to the use of fuels in the transport sector were in the range of USD 460-2,400 billion in 2010, and this could increase 40 per cent by 2030.

Connecting electric vehicles to the grid expands ‘demand side management’ options — using smart grids to give customers control and make well-informed decisions on their consumption of electricity — that can help customers shift their electricity loads during peak periods. For residential consumers, demand side management enables them to be informed about when they can cheaply consume electricity, saving both energy and money.

For this reason, some countries are taking steps to increase the number of charging stations in their territory. In 2016, over 8,000 public and private charging stations were installed in Beijing, China. The city has plans to install 435,000 more by 2020.

techbrief-ev-fig2Source: Adapted from Probst et al, (2011)

Developing the methods and understanding for how to best charge, aggregate and control electric vehicle load on the grid, is still a fundamental and on-going issue, according to the report. But eventually smart-charging will be able to support distribution and grid management, and ultimately improve the operation of electric vehicles.

To learn more about sustainable solutions in the transport sector, IRENA is developing a transportation series that includes Biofuels for Aviation, Biogas for Road Vehicles and Renewable Energy Options for Shipping.

Read more: Enabling Variable Renewables and Driving Down...

Bioenergy, renewable energy derived from biological sources, today accounts for as much as three-quarters of total final renewable energy use — making it by far the most widely used renewable energy source worldwide. IRENA estimates that to meet international climate change targets, the share of renewable energy will need to be doubled by 2030, and bioenergy can account for around half of that.

Falling costs and favourable policies have resulted in a dramatic rise in installed generation capacity worldwide, but the deployment of renewables is at times still stalled by projects that do not meet the specific standards required to obtain the necessary financial support. To support the successful development of woody biomass projects, IRENA has launched new technical guidelines on Woody Biomass, as part of its online Project Navigator platform. Just as the utility-scale solar PV guidelines, released last October, the newly released guidelines describe in nine stages what is needed to plan, establish, operate, and decommission a bankable woody biomass project.

“These guidelines can be used by project developers, public service units, academia, and anyone who wants to know how to develop a bankable woody biomass project,” said Dolf Gielen, Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre. The Technical Concept Guidelines for Woody Biomass joins IRENA’s collection of expanding resources for project development that already includes on-shore wind and utility-scale solar PV plants. “Through IRENA’s supportive guidance, project developers can use tools and templates in nine stages to navigate potential project pitfalls and deploy woody biomass projects successfully,” Gielen explains.

But what are these nine stages, and what do project developers need to consider in each phase to avoid stalling their projects?

Getting started

“Most renewable energy businesses are based on long-term agreements with utilities, or they sell into a large and established market,” says Roland Roesch, IRENA’s Senior Programme Officer for Renewable Energy Markets and Technology Dialogue. “Managing project risks is crucial as both the feedstock and the targeted market may change or even disappear during the lifetime of the project. One mitigation measure lies in identifying a range of feedstock sources, markets and technologies, rather than fixating on only one solution. This is the first step, the identification stage.”

An outline of the interactions between various project stakeholders.An outline of the interactions between various project stakeholders.

After the identification stage, screening can begin. Screening involves making comparisons between feedstock, business models, related policies and programmes, and project sites. IRENA’s guidelines help planners address typical ‘show-stoppers’ — issues that can cause a biofuel project to fail — and advises that projects should be thoroughly checked in their early development process to avoid wasting energy and money investments.

Assessing a number factors like feedstock type and availability, community concerns, market data, cost estimates, preliminary financial assessment, project options, and ranking of options, are crucial. “The cost of a plant increases with its size, capacity and projected output, and so there are economy-of-scale effects to take into account,” explains Roesch. “Essentially, the larger a plant gets, the lower the cost per tonne of plant capacity will be. It’s in the assessment phase that project planners can identify the ‘sweet spot’ between costs and plant capacity.”

The selection stage involves stakeholders and external decision makers who evaluate the bankability of project alternatives. These decision makers investigate the relative financial viability of alternatives, long-term feedstock availability, the availability of human resources, and any potential issues that could cause the project to fail.

After the selection phase, pre-development of the project can begin, during which technical and economic planning is done. Major engineering studies are undertaken, including the conceptual design of the processing plant, and these form the basis for the project’s permits, licences and authorisations.

An illustration of the flow of activities during the pre-development phase.An illustration of the flow of activities during the pre-development phase.

Building bankability

The final development phase of the project is the single most critical phase of the whole development process. Final decisions that affect the project’s future performance, are taken, and all activities previously performed under multiple tasks and in different project development steps are finalised to decide if and when the project is ‘bankable.’

“A project is generally considered bankable if a bank or lenders are willing to finance it,” says Simon Benmarraze, an analyst working on the Project Navigator. “Each lender and investor has criteria to judge whether a project is bankable. Specifically, bankability means that the results of the financial model are in line with the expectations of investors and lenders.”

A project’s construction phase stretches from equipment procurement, to construction, installation and plant commissioning. The key concerns for project developers during construction should be cost, quality, and planning control measures.

Once construction is complete, the hopefully long period of operations should be begin. The focus of this phase should be to achieve and consistently maintain projected production levels and product quality, with the careful monitoring of feedstock quality, and best storage and processing practices.

The key stakeholders that take part in a medium- to large-scale biomass fuel-production plant.The key stakeholders that take part in a medium- to large-scale biomass fuel-production plant.

“Constant maintenance, fine-tuning, and adjustment are necessary to maintain smooth operations and uniform product parameters,” explains Benmarraze. “Some of these skills cannot be prescribed but depend on the equipment used, and will become part of the in-house knowledge of the biofuel producer.”

At the end of a project’s lifecycle, decommissioning begins. During this phase a biofuel plant may either be re-tooled so that it can continue to operate, or it can be decommissioned and its site rehabilitated.

In anticipation to the launch of the new guidelines, IRENA held an hour-long webinar covering the development of a bankable woody biomass project, which can be viewed in its entirety on IRENA’s YouTube channel or below. To learn more about developing a bankable renewable energy project, visit the IRENA Project Navigator website and try out its modules.
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Read more: Developing Bankable Woody Biomass Projects

In recent decades, wind turbines have become a familiar sight in many countries. Onshore wind projects around the world now consistently deliver electricity for USD 0.04 per kilowatt‑hour (kWh), with some projects achieving as low as USD 0.03/kWh. Yet up-to-date cost data and reliable projections of future costs remain limited.

The “learning curve” — a concept borrowed from manufacturing — assesses the rate at which production costs fall as deployment grows due to manufacturing and technology improvements. As an analytical tool, the curve captures past evolution and is a useful tool for assessing potential future cost trends for a given technology. In short, it provides a useful estimate of how future costs will fall as deployment (measured in some kind of physical units) grows.

Learning curves work by identifying the average percentage reduction in costs for each cumulative doubling of deployment. For the energy sector, learning curves have become an essential input to models that estimate the potential contributions of different technologies in the future energy system.

The existing literature for onshore wind, however, is out-of-date, largely failing to cover the period since 2009, when wind turbine prices have declined by 30-40%. Without comprehensive data for the entire period of onshore wind deployment, the learning curve literature may not be yielding realistic model results, potentially misleading policy makers. This is a very real risk, as almost 70% of installed capacity at the end of 2014 originated after 2007, while learning-rate estimates mostly predate 2010 and even include pre-2007 data.

To address this uncertainty, IRENA has updated the onshore wind learning curve, taking into account the latest data. Improved learning curves should help the growth of wind projects worldwide.

IRENA’s onshore wind learning curves

IRENA compiled a database that has allowed updated calculations of the learning rates of onshore wind for both investment costs and levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), filling the knowledge gap and eliminating the uncertainty that has existed around the validity of previous learning rate analysis for onshore wind.

The project examined 12 countries (Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States) over the period 1983‑2014. These 12, accounting for over 87% of global installed capacity for onshore wind power at the end of 2014, represent a robust view of industry learning. The dataset covers more than 3 200 individual wind farms, representing 47% of global cumulative installed capacity at the end of 2014. To ensure a complete view on costs, this was complemented when necessary with additional data from reliable secondary sources for each country in each year.

The preliminary results show learning rates of 7% for investment costs (Figure 1) and 12% for LCOE (Figure 2) between 1983 and 2014, highlighting significant improvements in wind technology over the period. Final updated results are expected to be published in 2017.Learning rates for investment costs. Learning rate 7%

Learning rates for levelised cost of electricity. Learning rate of 12%Still, uncertainties remain, particularly in relation to the LCOE learning curve. Notably, the data for operation and maintenance costs over the whole period are not as robust as installed cost data, while data on actual project financing costs are almost completely absent. Yet financing costs for onshore wind have undoubtedly decreased. The 12% learning rate must therefore be considered a lower-floor finding, with the true learning rate likely to be somewhat higher.

To learn more, check out IRENA’s analysis of prospects for key technologies future in The Power to Change: Solar and Wind Cost Reduction Potential to 2025.

Read more: Onshore Wind Industry Learning Fast

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At IRENA’s seventh Assembly, held in Abu Dhabi in January 2017, renewable energy projects from the Marshall Islands, Niger, Seychelles and the Solomon Islands were selected to receive a total of USD 44.5 million in funding through the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility. The Facility is a unique partnership between the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), set up to identify and partially finance promising renewable energy projects in developing countries.

At the Assembly, energy ministers from the four selected countries explained how this partnership will bring about a positive change in their respective countries. 

Solar PV micro-grids in Marshall Islands

As one of the countries with some of the highest energy costs in the world, the Marshall Islands suffers from high rates of poverty and unemployment. To address these challenges, the country proposed a project to install solar PV micro-grids with advanced lithium-ion energy storage systems on four of its most populated islands. This transformative project is expected to provide affordable renewable energy to over 16,000 people.

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Rural electrification in Niger

Despite significant renewable energy resources, less than 1% of the rural population in Niger has access to electricity. This project proposes to install solar PV micro-grids and individual solar home kits in 100 isolated villages. The initiative is expected to provide electricity to over 21,000 households, 100 schools and over 100 medical centres.

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Solar PV farm in Seychelles

Currently, the Seychelles is almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels for its energy needs. This project aims to build the first ever solar PV farm in the country, which is expected to make energy more affordable and accessible. The project will reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels and create approximately 300 jobs.

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Hydropower plant in Solomon Islands

Power generation in the Solomon Islands relies on imported diesel fuel resulting in high retail costs of electricity. This project involves the construction of a hydropower plant which will provide electricity into the existing grid system of Honiara, helping 5,000 people in local communities to gain access to energy.

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Since 2013, the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility has allocated USD 189 million to 19 projects, attracting over USD 387 million in co-financing for a total of USD 576 million in new investment inflow. Selected projects over the first four cycles are expected to bring more than 100 MW of renewable energy capacity online, offering a sustainable and affordable solution for over a million people with limited or no access to electricity.

Read more: Ministers: ‘IRENA/ADFD Plays Key Role Advancing...

Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, forecasts global solar installations to reach 66.7 GW with China, the United States, Japan and India to make up the top four solar markets this year.

Click here to get the full report: http://bit.ly/MercomSolarApr2016Form

“Solar installations are forecasted to grow year-over-year globally despite recent headwinds in the sector with solar stocks, yieldcos, bankruptcies and the negative perception surrounding solar public companies. Solar has grown from just 2.6 GW in 2007 to a forecasted 66.7 GW in 2016 showing impressive resiliency along the way as it becomes one of the fastest growing new generation sources around the world,” commented Raj Prabhu, CEO and Co-Founder of Mercom Capital Group.

China installed 15.1 GW of solar in 2015, retaining its top spot as the largest solar installer in the world. Mercom forecasts China to install 18.5 GW in 2016. The additional 5.3 GW installation quota combined with the expected rush to meet FiT deadlines in the first half of the year should help China exceed 2015 installation numbers. China’s Q1 2016 installation figures of 7.14 GW confirm that it is off to a fast start. China recently reduced the FiT by up to 11 percent based on regions. To address the subsidy payment issues and raise additional revenue, the renewable energy surcharge has been increased by 27 percent, and an on-grid power tariff for commercial and industrial customers has been reduced to tackle shortages in the renewable energy fund. To address curtailment issues, the government has proposed a policy of guaranteed purchase of renewable power which it plans to implement gradually. 

The unexpected extension of the U.S. Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in December last year has completely changed the dynamics of the U.S. solar market. Mercom forecasts a conservative 13.5 GW of solar installations in 2016 as vendors are indicating a slower first quarter - at least in terms of new projects - as developers are taking their time to line up suppliers and negotiate contracts. This of course may change in the second half of the year.

Japan is expected to install around 10.5 GW of solar this year. Its current solar installation goal is 28 GW by 2020. Japan cut the feed-in tariff in March of 2016 by 11 percent. While the country started off with an overly generous FiT in 2012 of ¥42 (~$0.387)/kWh, it is now down to ¥24 (~$0.221)/kWh. Japan continues to struggle with grid connection, curtailment issues, and an undeveloped pipeline. Of the approved pipeline, only about 15 percent has been installed. Japan is also looking to implement solar auctions in order to cut subsidy costs.

India is expected to install over 4 GW in 2016 which will bring it to the fourth spot globally. India currently has a pipeline of over 21 GW under development and in pending auctions as the country targets its installation goal of 100 GW by 2022. Aggressive bidding in its recent auctions has caused some concerns to the viability of these projects due to unrealistic low bids. The latest India update can be found here.

The top three solar markets in Europe are again expected to be the U.K., Germany and France.

Proliferation of solar auctions around the world is an important development over the last 12 months with subsidy costs from solar becoming an issue in many countries. Germany completed three auctions in 2015, the U.K. and Japan are looking at a similar model, France is conducting solar auctions, and China is also contemplating auctions. India and South African solar policies are primarily based on auctions while Brazil and Mexico are also largely auction-based.

Subscribers to Mercom’s weekly Solar Market Intelligence Report will have access to the full report. To become a subscriber, visit: https://secure.campaigner.com/CSB/Public/Form.aspx?fid=1120345

About Mercom Capital Group

Mercom Capital Group, llc, is a global communications and consulting firm focused exclusively on clean energy and financial communications. Mercom’s consulting division advises cleantech companies on new market entry, custom market intelligence and overall strategic decision making. Mercom’s consulting division also delivers highly respected industry market intelligence reports covering Solar Energy and Smart Grid. Our reports provide timely industry happenings and ahead-of-the-curve analysis specifically for C-level decision making. Mercom’s communications division helps clean energy companies and financial institutions build powerful relationships with media, analysts, government decision makers, local communities and strategic partners. For more information about Mercom Capital Group, visit: http://www.mercomcapital.com. To get a copy of Mercom’s popular market intelligence reports, visit: http://mercomcapital.com/market_intelligence.php.

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Read more: Led by China, the United States and Japan,...

Residential/commercial funds bring in $1.36 billion in Q2 2016, debt and public market financing slump continues

Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its report on funding and merger and acquisition (M&A) activity for the solar sector in the second quarter of 2016. 

To learn more about the report, visit: http://bit.ly/MercomSolarQ22016

Total corporate funding, including venture capital funding, public market and debt financing into the solar sector in Q2 2016 fell to $1.7 billion this quarter,  a 41 percent drop compared to the $2.8 billion raised in Q1 2016. Year-over-year total corporate funding was down significantly compared to $5.9 billion in the second quarter of last year.

“The solar industry continues to experience weakness in terms of financing activity, and corporate funding in Q2 2016 was at its lowest level in three years,” said Raj Prabhu, CEO and Co-Founder of Mercom Capital Group.

Global solar VC funding (including private equity) saw a large decline this quarter with $174 million in 16 deals compared to $406 million in 23 deals in Q1 2016. Year-over-year (YoY) VC numbers were slightly better compared to Q2 2015 with $142 million in 24 deals.

Solar downstream companies raised the most (64 percent) VC funding in Q2 2016 with $112 million in seven deals. A large part of the total came from the $100 million raised by Silicon Ranch from private equity firm Partners Group.

Other VC deals this quarter included the $20 million raised by Tigo Energy, 1366 Technologies’ $15 million raise, and the $12.5 million raised by Sol Voltaics. A total of 21 VC investors participated in funding deals.

Solar public market financing in Q2 2016 came to $179 million in four deals compared to $94 million in four deals  in the first quarter of 2016 and $2.3 billion in 12 deals in Q2 2015.

Announced debt financing came to $1.3 billion in 12 deals in Q2 2016 compared to $2.3 billion raised in 19 deals in Q1 2016 and $3.4 billion in 14 deals in Q2 2015.

The top large-scale project funding deal in Q2 2016 was the $588 million secured by Engie for its 100 MW Kathu CSP solar project located in Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Connor, Clark & Lunn Infrastructure, Samsung Renewable Energy and Six Nations of the Grand River Development secured $482 million for their 100 MW Grand Renewable solar project. DE Shaw Renewables received a $226 million syndicated loan for its 100 MW North Star solar project.  Suzhou GCL New Energy secured a loan of $200 million for the construction of Hubei Jiangling Sanhu solar project and Hefei Changfeng Mingcheng Reservoir solar projects (60 MW). Mytrah secured a $175 million loan for the development of a portfolio of solar and wind projects in the company's pipeline.

It was a good quarter for residential and commercial solar funds, led by SolarCity, Mosaic, and Sunnova Energy, with $1.36 billion in 11 deals in Q2 2016, a 36 percent increase over the $1 billion raised in six deals in Q1 2016. Of the $1.36 billion announced in Q2 2016, $800 million went towards the lease model and $555 million went to loan funds. Since 2009, almost $20 billion has gone into residential/commercial solar funds.

There were 17 solar M&A transactions in the second quarter of 2016 compared to 14 in Q1 2016. Almost half of the M&A transactions involved solar downstream companies with eight deals, which was followed by BOS companies with five.

Sungevity announced a merger with Easterly Acquisition Corp, a blank check company traded on Nasdaq in a deal valued at $357 million.

There were 38 large-scale solar project acquisitions (13 disclosed for $1.9 billion) in Q2 2016, compared to Q1 2016 with 50 transactions (22 disclosed for $1.2 billion). More than 2 GW of solar projects were acquired in the second quarter compared to the 2.4 GW in the previous quarter.

The largest disclosed project acquisition by dollar amount in Q2 2016 was the $1.4 billion acquisition of 1,140 MW (solar 994 MW and wind 146 MW) renewable energy project pipeline of Welspun Renewables Energy by Tata Power Renewable Energy, a Tata Power subsidiary. NextEnergy Solar Fund, a UK-based investment fund, acquired a portfolio of five solar projects totaling 84.3 MW for $140 million. United PV (Changzhou) Investment, a wholly owned subsidiary of United Photovoltaics Group, acquired a 99 percent equity interest in Guodian Wulateqianqi Photovoltaics Power from Forty-eighth Research Institute of China Electronics Technology Group for $75 million, which gave them a 50 MW solar project located in Inner Mongolia. 8point3 Energy Partners, a yieldco formed by First Solar and SunPower acquired an interest in the 40 MW Kingbird solar project located in Kern County, California, from First Solar, for $60 million. Sky Capital America, a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Sky Solar, acquired 22 operating solar projects in California and one operating solar project in Massachusetts for a combined 22 MW from Greenleaf-TNX and SunPeak Universal Holdings for $57 million.

Mercom also tracked 196 new large-scale project announcements worldwide in Q2 2016 totaling 11.3 GW.

About Mercom Capital Group

Mercom Capital Group, is a global communications and consulting firm focused exclusively on clean energy and financial communications. Mercom’s consulting division advises cleantech companies on new market entry, custom market intelligence and overall strategic decision making. Mercom’s consulting division also delivers highly respected industry market intelligence reports covering Solar Energy and Smart Grid. Our reports provide timely industry happenings and ahead-of-the-curve analysis specifically for C-level decision making. Mercom’s communications division helps clean energy companies and financial institutions build powerful relationships with media, analysts, government decision makers, local communities and strategic partners. For more information about Mercom Capital Group, visit: http://www.mercomcapital.com. To get a copy of Mercom’s popular market intelligence reports, visit: http://mercomcapital.com/market_intelligence.php.

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Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its report on funding and merger and acquisition (M&A) activity for the solar sector in the second quarter of 2016. 

 

Total corporate funding, including venture capital funding, public market and debt financing into the solar sector in Q2 2016 fell to $1.7 billion this quarter, approximately a 41 percent drop compared to the $2.8 billion raised in Q1 2016. Year-over-year total corporate funding was down significantly compared to $5.9 billion in the first quarter of last year.

Read more: Total Corporate Funding in the Solar Sector...

Smart Grid companies receive $222 million; Battery/Storage companies receive $125 million; Energy Efficiency companies raise $86 million

Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its report on funding and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity for the Smart Grid, Battery/Storage and Energy Efficiency sectors for the second quarter of 2016.

To get a copy of the report, visit: http://bit.ly/MercomSGQ22016

Smart Grid

Venture capital (VC) funding (including private equity and corporate venture capital) for Smart Grid companies doubled with $222 million in 15 deals compared to $110 million in 14 deals in Q1 2016. Year-over-year (YoY), funding also doubled compared to Q2 2015 when $104 million was raised in 18 deals.The top VC funded Smart Grid related technology companies included Vivint Smart Home, which raised $100 million from tech investor Peter Thiel and investment firm Solamere Capital; ChargePoint, which raised $50 million from Linse Capital, Braemar Energy Ventures, Constellation Energy, Statoil Energy Ventures, Envision Ventures, Jan Klatten, Michael Liebreich, and Rick Wagoner; AutoGrid Systems, which raised $20 million from a consortium of global investors including Energy Impact Partners, Envision Ventures, Envision Energy and E.ON; Origami Energy, which brought in $19.5 million from Cambridge Innovation Capital, Octopus Ventures, and Fred Olsen-related companies; and lastly Comfy secured $12 million in funding from Emergence Capital, CBRE Group, Microsoft Ventures, Claremont Creek Ventures, and Westly Group.

There were 46 VC investors that participated in Smart Grid deals in Q2 2016 compared to 22 in Q1 2016. Smart Grid Communication technologies, including Home Automation, had the largest share of VC funding with $123 million, a substantial increase from the $31 million raised in four deals in Q1 2016.

There was one debt financing deal announced in the second quarter of 2016 for $3 million, compared to $214 million in two debt & public market financing deals in the previous quarter.

There were three M&A transactions for Smart Grid technologies in Q2 2016 (one disclosed) compared to two transactions (one disclosed) in Q1 2016.

Battery/Storage

VC funding for Battery/Storage companies doubled with $125 million in 10 deals in Q2 2016 compared to $54 million in 10 deals in the previous quarter. Year-over-year funding in Q2 2016 was in line with Q2 2015, which had $126 million in 13 deals. 

VC funding in Q2 2016 was spread across six Battery/Storage sub-technologies: lithium-ion batteries, sodium-based batteries, energy storage systems, lead-based batteries, energy storage management software and thermal energy storage.

The Top 5 Battery/Storage VC funding deals were: Nexeon with $43.3 million from PUK Ventures, Imperial Innovations, Invesco Perpetual, Wacker Chemie and Woodford Investment Management; Aquion Energy with $33 million; Stem with $15 million from Mithril Capital Management, Greenvision Technologies (brand name Relicell) with $8 million from Vintage Energy & Resources; and Silatronix with $8 million from Hitachi Chemical and Inabata.

Twenty investors participated in Battery and Storage funding in Q2 2016 compared to eight in Q1 2016. Lithium-ion Battery companies raised the most funding with $51.3 million in three deals.

Announced debt and public market financing for Battery/Storage technologies came to $65 million in two deals in the second quarter of 2016, compared to $28.5 million in two deals in Q1 2016. Plug Power and FuelCell Energy closed on a long-term loan facility for $40 million and $25 million respectively with Hercules Capital.

There were four M&A transactions for Battery/Storage companies in Q2 2016 two of which disclosed financial details. In Q1 2016, there were two M&A transactions, neither disclosed transaction details. The largest M&A deal in the second quarter of 2016 was the $1.1 billion acquisition of Saft by Total.

Efficiency

There was a sharp decline in VC funding for Energy Efficiency technology companies in Q2 2016 with $86 million in nine deals compared to $211 million in 14 deals in Q1 2016. In a YoY comparison, VC funding for Efficiency companies in Q2 2015 was $211 million with twice as many deals with 18. 

The top VC funded company in Q2 2016 was Thermondo which raised over $25.6 million in funding from: Global Founders Capital, E.ON, Holtzbrinck Ventures, IBB, and Picus Capital, followed by tado° which raised $23 million in funding from Inven Capital, Electric Imp which raised $21 million in funding from Rampart Capital and Redpoint Ventures and Kyulux which raised $13.5 million from Samsung Venture Investment, Samsung Display, LG Display, Japan Display, JOLED, top tier Japanese venture capital funds and a Japanese government affiliated venture fund.

Eighteen investors participated in Energy Efficiency VC deals in Q2 2016 compared to 31 in the previous quarter.

Announced debt and public market financing in the Efficiency category peaked in the second quarter of 2016 with $1.75 billion in seven deals. In Q1 2016 there were two debt deals for $238 million.

There was one initial public offering (IPO) in the Efficiency category by Philips Lighting, which accounted for $959 million.

In Q2 PACE Financing totaled $762 million including $512 million in PACE Securitization deals from three transactions. Top deals included the $305.3 million raised by Renovate America, through its seventh securitization of PACE bonds; $250 million credit facility secured by Ygrene Energy Fund to support the expansion of its PACE program investments and $123 million raised by Renew Financial through its second securitization of residential PACE bonds.

M&A transactions in the Efficiency sector doubled in the second quarter of 2016 with seven transactions (three disclosed) compared to three transactions in Q1 2016 of which only one disclosed details. The top deal was the $532 million acquisition of Opower by Oracle. Another notable deal was the merger of Dividend Solar and Figtree Financing.

About Mercom Capital Group

Mercom Capital Group, llc, is a global communications and research and consulting firm focused on cleantech. Mercom delivers market intelligence and funding and M&A reports covering Smart Grid, Battery/Storage & Energy Efficiency, and Solar and advises companies on new market entry, custom market intelligence and strategic decision-making. Mercom's communications division helps companies and financial institutions build powerful relationships with media, analysts, local communities, and strategic partners. About Mercom: http://www.mercomcapital.com. Mercom's clean energy reports: http://store.mercom.mercomcapital.com/page/.  

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Read more: Smart Grid, Battery/Storage and Efficiency...

Residential/commercial funds bring in $1.1 billion

Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its report on funding and merger and acquisition (M&A) activity for the solar sector in the third quarter of 2016. 

To learn more about the report, visit: http://bit.ly/MercomSolarQ32016

Total corporate funding, including venture capital, public market and debt financing into the solar sector in Q3 2016 was up to about $3 billion in 45 deals, compared to the $1.7 billion in 32 deals in Q2 2016.

“Funding levels bounced back across the board compared to a weak Q2 but they are still well below last year’s totals,” commented Raj Prabhu, CEO and Co-Founder of Mercom Capital Group. “The combination of slower than expected U.S. demand, the overcapacity situation coming out of China, and global hyper-competitive auctions leading to lower margins has affected the entire supply chain and most of the solar equities are in the red year-to-date. The exception has been the rebound of some of the yieldcos.”

Global VC funding (including private equity) for the solar sector almost doubled in Q3 2016 with $342 million in 16 deals compared to the $174 million raised in the same number of deals in Q2 2016.

Solar downstream companies raised $273 million in eight deals compared to $112 million in seven deals in Q2 2016. The largest share came from the $220 million raised by Solar Mosaic, a provider of residential solar loans, from Warburg Pincus, Core Innovation Capital and Obvious Ventures.

Other top VC deals this quarter included the $47 million raised by Heliatek, $20 million raised by BBOXX, $15 million raised by d.light, and the $10 million each raised by Morgan Solar and Off-Grid Electric.

Solar public market financing in Q3 2016 came to $880 million in five deals, including one IPO, compared to $179 million in four deals in Q2 2016. In Q3 of 2015, public market financing totaled $1.8 billion.

The first solar IPO this year was recorded by BCPG, a solar downstream company for $166 million.

Debt financing came to almost $1.8 billion in 24 deals in Q3 2016 compared to 12 deals in Q2 2016 for $1.3 billion. Year-over-year, $4.1 billion was raised in 22 deals in Q3 2015.

The top large-scale project funding deal this quarter was Magnetar Capital’s raise of $397 million to refinance its 135 MW UK solar projects portfolio. Sinogreenergy raised $200 million to develop a portfolio of up to 550 MW of solar projects in Taiwan. SunPower secured a $199.7 million syndicated loan for its 100 MW Pelican Solar Project in Chile. Gunkul Engineering secured $115.8 million in a syndicated loan for the construction of the 31.75 MW Sendai Okura solar project in Japan. Fotowatio Renewable Ventures received $103.4 million in project financing for the 50 MW solar PV project in northern Jordan.

Residential and commercial solar funds raised in Q3 2016 came to $1.1 billion in five deals compared to $1.36 billion in 11 deals in Q2 2016. Of the $1.1 billion announced this quarter, $760 million went towards lease and $333 million went to loan funds. So far this year, close to $3.5 billion has been raised in 22 deals. During the same period last year, more than $5 billion was raised in 21 deals.

There were 18 solar M&A transactions in Q3 2016 compared to 17 in the previous quarter. Solar downstream companies accounted for half of the transactions (nine), followed by manufacturers with five. Four acquisitions involved SunEdison companies this quarter as a result of the company filing for bankruptcy and selling off parts of its business.

There were 55 large-scale solar project acquisitions (24 disclosed for $1.3 billion) compared to Q2 2016 which had 38 transactions (13 disclosed for $1.9 billion). About 2.6 GW of solar projects were acquired in Q3 2016 compared to 2 GW in the previous quarter.

The largest disclosed transaction was the $218 million acquisition of a 24 percent stake in Desert Sunlight Investment Holdings’ 550 MW solar project in California (called Desert Sunlight Solar Energy Center) by NextEra Energy Partners. Solar Partnership Capital acquired 152 MW of solar projects from Sky Solar Japan for $165 million. Integrated Asset Management acquired a portfolio of 30 solar projects totaling 34 MW in Italy for $141.4 million. 8point3 Energy Partners, a yieldco company formed by First Solar and SunPower, acquired SunPower's 49 percent stake in its 102 MW Henrietta Solar Project in California for $134 million. Macquarie Group and BRUC Capital acquired a 37 MW solar project pipeline including 27 individual projects in Japan from IBC SOLAR for $101.2 million.

Mercom tracked 185 new large-scale project announcements worldwide in Q3 2016 totaling 9.2 GW. 

About Mercom Capital Group

Mercom Capital Group is a global communications and consulting firm focused exclusively on clean energy and financial communications. Mercom’s consulting division advises cleantech companies on new market entry, custom market intelligence and overall strategic decision making. Mercom’s consulting division also delivers highly respected industry market intelligence reports covering Solar Energy and Smart Grid. Our reports provide timely industry happenings and ahead-of-the-curve analysis specifically for C-level decision making. Mercom’s communications division helps clean energy companies and financial institutions build powerful relationships with media, analysts, government decision makers, local communities and strategic partners. For more information about Mercom Capital Group, visit: http://www.mercomcapital.com. To get a copy of Mercom’s popular market intelligence reports, visit: http://mercomcapital.com/market_intelligence.php.

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Read more: Total Corporate Funding in the Solar Sector...

$625 million goes to Battery Storage residential and commercial project funds

Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its report on funding and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity for the Smart Grid, Battery Storage and Energy Efficiency sectors for the third quarter of 2016.

To get a copy of the report, visit: http://bit.ly/MercomSGQ32016

Smart Grid, Battery Storage and Efficiency companies raised $102 million in venture capital funding (including private equity and corporate venture capital) in Q3 2016. The top funded company was an Efficiency company, ecobee, a manufacturer of a Wi-Fi-enabled smart thermostat, with $35 million raised from Amazon Alexa Fund, Thomvest and Relay Ventures. Skeleton Technologies, a developer and manufacturer of ultracapacitors, raised $14.5 million from FirstFloor Capital, UP Invest and Harju Elekter in the second largest deal. Sense, a developer of a home energy monitoring system, rounded out the top three, with $14 million raised from Shell Technology Ventures, Energy Impact Partners, Capricorn Investment Group, Prelude Ventures, CRV and Bolt.

Smart Grid

Venture capital (VC) funding (including private equity and corporate venture capital) for Smart Grid companies came to $11 million in seven deals in the third quarter of 2016, the lowest amount of VC funding for a quarter since Mercom began tracking funding activity. In Q2 2016, $222 million went into 15 deals. In a year-over-year (YoY) comparison, $81 million went into 12 deals in Q3 2015.

There were seven VC investors that participated in Smart Grid deals in Q3 2016, compared to 46 in Q2 2016. 

There was one debt financing deal announced in the third quarter of 2016 for $250,000, compared to $3 million in one debt financing deal in Q2 2016. 

There were eight M&A transactions for Smart Grid technologies in Q3 2016 (two disclosed) compared to three transactions (one disclosed) in Q2 2016.

Battery Storage

VC funding for Battery Storage companies declined sharply with $30 million in nine deals compared to $125 million in 10 deals in Q2 2016 as significant funding activity this quarter shifted to Battery Storage project funds this quarter. YoY funding in Q3 2016 was lower than Q3 2015, which had $96 million in nine deals.

VC funding in Q2 2016 was spread across six Battery Storage sub-technologies: supercapacitor, lithium-based batteries, energy storage management software, energy storage systems, thermal energy storage and flow batteries.

Twenty-two investors participated in Battery and Storage funding in Q3 2016. There were 20 investors in Q2 2016.

Announced debt and public market financing for Battery Storage technologies totaled $51.6 million in three deals this quarter, compared to $40 million in one deal in Q2 2016. FuelCell Energy raised $40 million through the sale of shares and warrants. Electrovaya secured a loan of $10 million, and Ixous raised $1.6 million in debt funding.

It was a record quarter for Battery Storage residential and commercial project funds which totaled $625 million in four deals, compared to $175 million raised in two deals in Q2 2016. Tabuchi America raised $300 million in project financing for residential solar-plus-storage installations in the residential sector’s only project fund. On the commercial side, Advanced Microgrid Solutions secured $200 million in funding from Macquarie Capital. Stem, a provider of commercial behind-the-meter energy storage systems, announced an investment of up to $100 million from Starwood Energy Group. Sharp’s Energy Systems and Services Group, a division of Sharp Electronics Corporations (the U.S. subsidiary of Osaka-based Sharp Corporation) and a developer of a behind-the-meter energy storage system for peak demand reduction for commercial and industrial building owners, announced $25 million in funding for solar coupled with its SmartStorage energy storage solution.

Since 2013, $1.1 billion has been raised in Battery Storage project funds.

There were three M&A transactions from Battery Storage companies in Q3 2016, none of which disclosed financial details. In Q2 2016, there were four M&A transactions, two of which disclosed transaction amounts. In a YoY comparison, there were three transactions in Q3 2015.

Efficiency

VC funding for Energy Efficiency technology companies fell again this quarter with $61 million in five deals compared to $86 million in nine deals in Q2 2016. In a YoY comparison, VC funding for Efficiency companies in Q3 2015 was much higher with $316 million in 17 deals.

Seventeen investors participated in Energy Efficiency VC deals in Q3 2016 compared to 18 in the previous quarter.

Announced debt and public market financing in the Efficiency category came to $328.2 million in two deals in Q3 2016, one of which was Renovate America’s eighth securitization deal for $320.2 million. Renovate America is a provider of residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing in the U.S. for energy efficiency solutions. In Q2 2016 there were seven debt deals for $1.75 billion, including three securitization deals totaling $512 million.

There were two M&A transactions in the Energy Efficiency sector in the third quarter, compared to seven in Q2 2016. Both transactions were from lighting companies; they did not disclosed transaction details.

About Mercom Capital Group

Mercom Capital Group, llc, is a global communications and research and consulting firm focused on cleantech. Mercom delivers market intelligence and funding and M&A reports covering Smart Grid, Battery Storage & Energy Efficiency, and Solar and advises companies on new market entry, custom market intelligence and strategic decision-making. Mercom's communications division helps companies and financial institutions build powerful relationships with media, analysts, local communities, and strategic partners. About Mercom: http://www.mercomcapital.com. Mercom's clean energy reports: http://store.mercom.mercomcapital.com/page/.

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Read more: Smart Grid, Battery Storage and Efficiency...

Solar Demand Outlook Improves for 2017 with 70 GW 

Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, forecasts global solar installations to reach 76 GW in 2016. Solar installations to hit 70 GW in 2017.

Click here to get the full report: http://bit.ly/MercomSolarNov2016Form

“Global solar demand will overshoot most forecasts made earlier this year due to an unprecedented level of activity in China,” said Raj Prabhu, CEO and Co-Founder of Mercom Capital Group. "Record installations in China followed by a slowdown resulted in an oversupply situation, which led to a module price crash. Low module prices are helping demand recovery going into 2017.”

Rather than a slowdown as expected earlier, global solar demand outlook has improved for 2017 as steep module price declines have triggered a rebound in China in anticipation of the next round of tariff cuts. In fact, this latest rebound has stabilized module price declines somewhat. Similar demand recovery due to improved project economics is expected in other markets.

After installing 15.1 GW in 2015, China overshot its 2016 installation goal of 18.1 GW in the first half of 2016 alone with approximately 22 GW installed as developers rushed to complete projects before the country’s June 30 tariff deadline. Demand fell after the tariff cuts, which triggered a drop in solar module prices resulting in an oversupply situation. Spot module prices have fallen approximately 30 percent YTD and about 21 percent since June. Due to unprecedented installation levels, China’s National Energy Administration is looking at a 27 percent reduction in the country’s solar installation target from 150 GW to 110 GW by 2020.

Mercom’s forecast for the U.S. solar market in 2016 is approximately 13 GW. The forecast is mostly unchanged from our earlier estimates as channel checks have consistently indicated slower than expected activity after the ITC extension was announced in December 2015. A substantial number of large-scale projects have been postponed to 2017 due to the absence of an impending ITC deadline.

The U.S. market is projected to grow about 78 percent year-over-year in 2016. Utility-scale solar projects continue to drive the U.S. solar market with an estimated pipeline of more than 30 GW. Power purchase agreements (PPAs) are being signed at lower and lower prices and rapid module price declines due to the oversupply situation in China are expected to stimulate activity in the U.S. even more as project IRRs improve. All of this could lead to a strong 2017 for the U.S.

The unexpected election of Donald Trump has left the market questioning if it will be impacted by the results. While the U.S. Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s signature climate change policy, may be the first casualty, the ITC extension will likely remain due to the bipartisan nature of how the extension was passed and the fact that the solar sector employs more than 200,000 citizens.

Japan and India will follow China and the U.S. as the third and fourth largest markets this year. India has a chance to move up to the third spot in 2017 based on its current project pipeline. Japan is expected to install 10.5 GW this year. The tariff revisions coming up in Japan in April 2017 could be steep. Reverse auctions and regulations are also expected in April 2017 as Japan moves toward auctions in an effort to reduce subsidy bills. India is expected to install about 4 GW this year and double that in 2017. The Indian solar market is largely driven by auctions and has a robust 20 GW pipeline.

The European market continues to decline with only the U.K., Germany and France expected to install more than 1 GW in 2016. In 2017, France and Germany are the only European markets forecast to  install more than a gigawatt.

Australia is expected to install approximately 1 GW in both 2016 and 2017.

Other solar markets to watch include Latin America, an important growth market led by Mexico, Chile and Brazil, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which is also a significant up and coming market especially after the collapse of oil prices. South Africa and Saudi Arabia are forecast to show significant growth.

Subscribers to Mercom’s weekly Solar Market Intelligence Report will have access to the full update. To become a subscriber, visit: http://bit.ly/MercomSubscribe

About Mercom Capital Group

Mercom Capital Group, llc, is a global communications and consulting firm focused exclusively on clean energy and financial communications. Mercom’s consulting division advises cleantech companies on new market entry, custom market intelligence and overall strategic decision making. Mercom’s consulting division also delivers highly respected industry market intelligence reports covering Solar Energy and Smart Grid. Our reports provide timely industry happenings and ahead-of-the-curve analysis specifically for C-level decision making. Mercom’s communications division helps clean energy companies and financial institutions build powerful relationships with media, analysts, government decision makers, local communities and strategic partners. For more information about Mercom Capital Group, visit: http://www.mercomcapital.com. To get a copy of Mercom’s popular market intelligence reports, visit: http://mercomcapital.com/market_intelligence.php.

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Read more: Mercom Forecasts 76 GW in Global Solar...

$4.9 Billion Raised by Residential and Commercial Solar Funds, VC Funding Reaches $1.3 Billion

Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its report on funding and merger and acquisition (M&A) activity for the solar sector in 2016.

Total global corporate funding in the solar sector, including venture capital/private equity (VC), debt financing, and public market financing, raised by public companies came to $9.1 billion, compared to $25.3 billion in 2015, a 64 percent drop. 

To learn more about the report, visithttp://bit.ly/MercomSolarQ42016

“It was a challenging year for solar companies in terms of fundraising even as demand is expected to reach an all-time high,” commented Raj Prabhu, CEO and Co-founder of Mercom Capital Group.  “However, 2017 looks better than expected as lower module prices are expected to boost installation levels,” he added.

Global VC investments came to $1.25 billion in 77 deals in 2016, compared to $1.1 billion in 83 deals in 2015. 

Solar downstream companies accounted for 80 percent of the VC funding in 2016, with $985 million of the $1.3 billion raised. Investments in PV technology companies came to $97 million and thin-film companies brought in $95 million. Balance of Systems (BoS) companies raised $37 million. Service providers raised $24 million. In one deal each, the CPV category raised $10 million and the CSP category raised $2.3 million. 

Among the Top VC deals in 2016, the largest was the $300 million raised by Sunnova Energy, followed by the $220 million raised by Solar Mosaic. Origis Energy and Silicon Ranch each raised $100 million. 

There were 100 investors that participated in funding rounds in 2016, with five involved in multiple rounds: Energy Access Ventures, ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies, International Finance Corporation (IFC), KawiSafi Ventures, and Neo Solar Power.

Public market financing was lower this year with $1.8 billion in 27 deals, compared to the 2015 record of $6 billion in 38 deals. There were three IPOs which brought in $230 million – they were BCPG (a subsidiary of Bangchak Petroleum), Azure Power, and Ripasso Energy. Four yieldcos raised public market financing. There was no IPO activity by yieldcos in 2016.

Debt financing in 2016 totaled $6 billion compared to the $18.3 billion in 2015. There were three securitization deals in 2016 totaling $387 million. SolarCity raised a total of $234.6 million in two securitization deals and Shenzhen Energy had one securitization deal for $152 million.

Announced large-scale project funding in 2016 came to $9.4 billion in 133 deals this year, compared to 2015 with $11.6 billion in 124 deals. A total of 153 investors funded about 5.9 GW of large-scale solar projects this year.

The top investors for large-scale project funding were Santander, which invested in eight projects, followed by Bpifrance, Natixis and NORD/LB which invested in five projects each.

There was a total of $4.9 billion raised in 30 residential and commercial solar project funds in 2016 compared to $5.7 billion raised in 24 funds in 2015. SolarCity, Sunrun, Solar Mosaic, Spruce Finance, and Tabuchi Electric were the top fundraisers in 2016. Since 2009, solar residential and commercial firms offering lease, PPA and loans have raised more than $22.5 billion. In the last three quarters of 2016, loans made up almost 47 percent of residential/commercial funds announced.

There were 68 corporate M&A transactions in the solar sector in 2016 compared to 81 transactions in 2015. Solar downstream companies were involved in 38 of these transactions. BayWa r.e., DNV GL, Golden Concord Holdings, and Voltalia acquired two companies each. The largest and the most notable transaction in 2016 was the $2.1 billion acquisition of SolarCity by Tesla Motors.

There were a record 218 large-scale solar project acquisitions for more than 12.2 GW, compared to 2015 when 12.7 GW changed hands in 204 transactions. 

Mercom also tracked 133 large-scale project announcements worldwide in Q4 2016 totaling 5.8 GW and 826 project announcements totaling 40.4 GW for all of 2016.

To learn more about the report, visithttp://bit.ly/MercomSolarQ42016

About Mercom Capital Group

Mercom Capital Group, llc, is a global research and communications firm focused on clean energy and financial communications. Mercom’s consulting division advises cleantech companies on new market entry, custom market intelligence and overall strategic decision making. Mercom’s consulting division also delivers highly respected industry market intelligence reports covering Solar Energy, and Smart Grid. Our reports provide timely industry happenings and ahead-of-the-curve analysis specifically for C-level decision making. Mercom’s communications division helps clean energy companies and financial institutions build powerful relationships with media, analysts, government decision makers, local communities and strategic partners. For more information about Mercom Capital Group, visit: http://www.mercomcapital.com. To get a copy of Mercom’s popular market intelligence reports, visit: http://mercomcapital.com/market_intelligence.php.

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Read more: Total Corporate Funding in Solar Sector Comes in...

Smart Grid companies bring in $389 million; Battery Storage companies secure $365 million; Energy Efficiency companies receive $528 million

Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy research and communications firm, released its report on funding and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity for the Smart Grid, Battery Storage and Energy Efficiency sectors for 2016.

To get a copy of the report, visit: http://bit.ly/MercomSGQ42016

Smart Grid

Venture capital (VC) funding (including private equity and corporate venture capital) for Smart Grid companies dropped to $389 million in 42 deals, compared to $425 million in 57 deals in 2015. Total corporate funding, including debt and public market financing, came to $613 million compared to $527 million in 2015.

The top VC funded companies in 2016 were Vivint SmartHome, which brought in $100 million, ChargePoint which raised $50 million, followed by AutoGrid, mPrest, Powerhive and Smart Wires each raising $20 million. 

Eighty-two investors funded Smart Grid companies in 2016, compared to 103 in 2015. Top VC investors in 2016 included Total Energy Ventures, Envision Ventures, and GE Ventures. 

Smart Grid Communications companies, including Home and Building Automation technology companies, attracted the largest share of VC funding in 2016 with $154 million in 11 deals, followed by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) Smart Charging companies and Vehicle to Grid (V2G) companies with $83 million in four deals.

There were five debt and public market financing deals announced in 2016 for Smart Grid companies for a total of $224 million. There were no IPOs announced in 2016 for Smart Grid companies.

There were 15 Smart Grid M&A transactions (four disclosed) for $2.4 billion in 2016. The top disclosed transaction was the $1.7 billion acquisition of Xylem by Sensus. Other disclosed transactions included Southern Company’s acquisition of PowerSecure for $431 million, Centrica’s acquisition of ENER-G Cogen International for $208 million, and Norvestor Equity’s acquisition of Eneas Group’s for $89.2 million.

Battery Storage

VC funding for Battery Storage companies fell marginally to $365 million in 38 deals compared to $397 million in 37 deals in 2015. Total corporate funding, including debt and public market financing, came to $540 million compared to $676 million in 2015.

Energy Storage System companies received the most funding with $146 million followed by Lithium-based Battery companies with $79 million.

The top VC funded companies included sonnen which raised $85 million, Nexeon raised $43.3 million, Sunverge Energy brought in $36.5 million, Aquion Energy raised $33 million, and Eos Energy Storage raised $23 million.

Sixty-two VC investors participated in Battery Storage deals in 2016 compared to 57 in 2015.

Debt and public market financing for Battery Storage companies fell to $175 million from the $279 million raised in 2015. There were no IPOs announced in 2016 for Battery Storage companies. 

Although VC funding into battery storage companies declined, a significant amount of funding went into energy storage project funds which received a total of $820 million in seven deals compared to $30 million in three deals in 2015.

There were 11 M&A transactions (three disclosed) for Battery Storage companies in 2016, compared to 11 M&A transactions (four disclosed) in 2015. The most notable transaction was Total’s acquisition of Saft for $1.1 billion.

Efficiency

VC funding for the Energy Efficiency sector fell sharply, bringing in $528 million in 33 deals compared to $852 million in 67 deals in 2015. Total corporate funding, including debt and public market financing, was $3.8 billion, compared to $2 billion in 2015.

The top VC funded companies were Ygrene Energy Fund, which raised $95 million, followed by Renew Financial with $70 million, ecobee with $35 million, and UrbanVolt brought in $32.9 million. 

Efficiency Finance companies captured the most funding with $256 million in seven deals. A total of 72 investors participated in funding deals compared to 129 investors in 2015. Four investors in 2016 were involved in multiple deals; Prelude Ventures participated in three deals and EnerTech Capital, LL Funds, NGEN Partners had two deals each.

Energy Efficiency companies raised nearly $3.2 billion in debt and public market financing. Financing in Energy Efficiency is also moving toward project funding. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing totaled $2.3 billion in 12 deals in 2016 compared to $1.1 billion in seven deals in 2015. There were nine securitization deals in 2016 for nearly $1.8 billion compared to seven securitization deals for $802 million in 2015. Securitization deals have now exceeded $2.8 billion in 16 deals since 2014.

There was one IPO in 2016; Philips Lighting, a provider of energy efficient LED lighting products, systems and services, raised $959 million in its IPO.

M&A activity in the efficiency sector in 2016 dipped with 14 transactions (five disclosed). In 2015, there were 45 M&A transactions (22 disclosed).

The largest disclosed transaction was the $532 million acquisition of Opower by Oracle. Other important transactions included the acquisition of Daintree Networks by GE subsidiary, Current and Wipro EcoEnergy’s acquisition by Chubb Alba Control Systems, an indirect subsidiary of United Technologies.

To get a copy of the report, visit: http://bit.ly/MercomSGQ42016

About Mercom Capital Group

Mercom Capital Group, llc, is a global communications and research firm focused on healthcare information technology, cleantech and financial communications. Mercom delivers highly respected industry market intelligence reports covering Smart Grid, Battery Storage & Efficiency, Solar Energy and Health IT/Digital Health. Our reports provide timely industry happenings and ahead-of-the-curve analysis specifically for C-level decision making. Mercom’s consulting division advises companies on new market entry, custom market intelligence and overall strategic decision-making. Mercom’s communications division helps companies and financial institutions build powerful relationships with media, analysts, government decision-makers, local communities and strategic partners. For more information about Mercom Capital Group, visit: http://www.mercomcapital.com. To get a copy of Mercom’s popular market intelligence reports, visit: http://mercomcapital.com/market_intelligence.php.

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Read more: Smart Grid, Battery Storage and Efficiency...

Debt and VC funding up, Increased M&A activity

Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its report on funding and merger and acquisition (M&A) activity for the solar sector in the first quarter of 2017.

Total corporate funding (including venture capital funding, public market and debt financing) into the solar sector in Q1 2017 doubled with $3.2 billion compared to $1.6 billion in Q4 2016. Year-over-year (YoY) funding in Q1 2017 was about 15 percent higher compared to the $2.8 billion raised in Q1 2016. 

To learn more about the report, visithttp://bit.ly/MercomSolarQ12017

“Q1 funding levels were up in the solar sector from the 2016 lows, largely due to increased debt financing activity. Corporate funding never reached $3 billion in any of the quarters in 2016. M&A activity was also strong with several large deals. Solar public companies also had a good first quarter,” commented Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group.

Global VC funding (venture capital, private equity, and corporate venture capital) for the solar sector saw a 78 percent rise in Q1 2017 with $585 million in 22 deals compared to $329 million raised in the same number of deals in Q4 2016. The amount raised was also higher YoY compared to the $406 million raised in 23 deals in Q1 2016.

A large part of the VC funding in Q1 2017 went to solar downstream companies; $548 million was raised in nine deals.

Top VC deals included the $200 million raised by ReNew Power Ventures followed by the $155 million raised by Greenko Energy Holdings, the $125 million secured by Hero Future Energies, and then Silicon Ranch’s $55 million. A total of 23 VC investors participated in Q1 2017.

Solar public market financing came to $461 million in 13 deals in Q1 2017, slightly lower compared to the $615 million (also in 13 deals) in Q4 2016, but significantly higher compared to the same quarter of last year when $94 million was raised in four deals. There was one IPO in Q1 2017 by Clenergy compared to two in Q4 2016.

Announced debt financing came in strong with $2.2 billion raised in 25 deals. In comparison, there were 10 deals in Q4 2016 for a total of $610 million. YoY, $2.3 billion was raised in 19 deals in Q1 2016. Most of the debt was raised by solar downstream companies.

In Q1 2017, Solar Mosaic raised $139 million through the first securitization of its residential solar loan portfolio at a 4.45 percent interest rate.

Announced large-scale project funding in Q1 2017 remained steady with $2.6 billion in 33 deals compared to $3 billion in 38 deals in Q4 2016. In a YoY comparison, $1.4 billion was raised in 24 deals in Q1 2016.

Residential and commercial solar funds announced in Q1 2017 dropped to $630 million in six deals compared to $1.5 billion in eight deals in Q4 2016. During the same quarter last year (Q1 2016), $1 billion was raised in six deals. Of the $630 million announced this quarter, $500 million went towards the lease/PPA model and $130 million went to loan funds. A total of more than $23 billion has now gone into residential and commercial funds since 2009.

There were 29 solar M&A transactions in Q1 2017 compared to 20 transactions in Q4 2016 and 14 transactions in Q1 2016. Of the 29 total transactions in Q1 2017, 20 involved solar downstream companies.

There were 49 large-scale solar project acquisitions (18 disclosed for $1.9 billion) in Q1 2017 compared to 73 transactions (23 disclosed for $2.1 billion) in Q4 2016. In a YoY comparison, there were 50 transactions (22 disclosed for $1.2 billion) in Q1 2016. About 7.4 GW of solar projects were acquired in Q1 2017 compared to 5 GW in Q4 2016. Investment firms and funds were the most active acquirers Q1 2017, picking up about 21 projects totaling 2.8 GW, followed by project developers with nine transactions for 3.3 GW. Yieldcos had four transactions for 962 MW.

Mercom tracked 233 new large-scale project announcements worldwide in Q1 2017 totaling 12.7 GW.

To learn more about the report, visit: http://bit.ly/MercomSolarQ12017

About Mercom Capital Group

Mercom Capital Group, llc, is a global communications and consulting firm focused exclusively on clean energy and financial communications. Mercom’s consulting division advises cleantech companies on new market entry, custom market intelligence and overall strategic decision making. Mercom’s consulting division also delivers highly respected industry market intelligence reports covering Solar Energy and Smart Grid. Our reports provide timely industry happenings and ahead-of-the-curve analysis specifically for C-level decision making. Mercom’s communications division helps clean energy companies and financial institutions build powerful relationships with media, analysts, government decision makers, local communities and strategic partners. For more information about Mercom Capital Group, visit: http://www.mercomcapital.com. To get a copy of Mercom’s popular market intelligence reports, visit: http://eepurl.com/cCZ6nT.

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Read more: Total Corporate Funding in Solar Sector Rises to...

Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its report on funding and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity for the Battery Storage, Smart Grid, and Energy Efficiency sectors for the first quarter of 2017.

To get a copy of the report, visit: http://bit.ly/MercomSGQ12017

Smart Grid

Venture capital (VC) funding (including private equity and corporate venture capital) for Smart Grid companies increased threefold in Q1 2017 with $164 million in 14 deals compared to $46 million in six deals in Q4 2016. In a year-over-year (YoY) comparison, in Q1 2016, $110 million was raised in 14 deals.

The top VC funded Smart Grid companies included: ChargePoint, which secured $82 million from Daimler, BMW I Ventures, Linse Capital, Rho Capital Partners, and Braemar Energy Ventures; Urjanet raised $20 million from Oak HC/FT; POD Point received $11 million from Draper Esprit and Barclays Capital; Blue Pillar secured $10 million from GXP Investments, Elevate Ventures, EnerTech Capital, Allos Ventures, Arsenal Venture Partners, and Claremont Creek Ventures; and Enchanted Rock raised $10 million from Energy Impact Partners.

Forty investors participated in Smart Grid VC funding rounds this quarter with Smart Charging of PHEV and V2G companies raising the most.

There were seven Smart Grid M&A transactions in Q1 2017 compared to two transactions in both Q4 2016 and Q1 2016.

Battery Storage

VC funding for Battery Storage companies came to $58 million in eight deals this quarter compared to $156 million in nine deals in Q4 2016. YoY funding in Q1 2016 was lower with $54 million raised in 10 deals.

The top VC funded Battery Storage companies this quarter were: Primus Power, which raised $32 million from Success Dragon, Matador Capital, Anglo American Platinum, DBL Partners, I2BF, and the Russia Kazakhstan Nanotechnology Fund; NRStor received $8.4 million in funding from Labourers’ Pension Fund of Central and Eastern Canada (LiUNA) and NRStor founder, Chairman, and CEO Annette Verschuren; Ioxus raised $6.5 million in funding; and Faradion raised $3.95 million in funding from Mercia Technologies, Finance Yorkshire Seedcorn Fund, and Haldor Topsoe.

Fifteen investors participated in Battery Storage funding this quarter with Flow Battery companies raising the most.

There were two debt and public market financing deals in Battery Storage this quarter totaling $22 million compared to $55 million in two deals in Q4 2016.

There was one Battery Storage project fund announced in Q1 2017 for $152 million.

There were two Battery Storage project funding deals in Q1 2017 that raised a combined $5 million compared to one deal that was undisclosed in Q4 2016. There were no Battery Storage project funding deals in Q1 2016.

There was one M&A transaction involving Battery Storage companies in Q1 2017. In Q4 2016, there were two M&A transactions. In a YoY comparison, in Q1 2016 there were two transactions.

Efficiency

Energy Efficiency technology companies increased VC funding to $213 million in 14 deals this quarter compared to the $170 million in five deals in Q4 2016 and $211 million in 14 deals in Q1 2016.

The Top 5 Efficiency deals included: $100 million raised by View (formerly Soladigm) from TIAA Investments, an affiliate of Nuveen; the $65 million in funding raised by Kinestral Technologies; the $15 million raised by Sense from iRobot Ventures, Shell Technology Ventures, Energy Impact Partners, Capricorn Investment Group, Prelude Ventures, CRV, and hardware accelerator Bolt; and SparkFund raised $7 million from Energy Impact Partners and Vision Ridge Partners.

Twenty-two investors participated in VC funding this quarter. Within the sector, Efficient Home/Building companies brought in the most funding.

Debt and public market financing for Efficiency companies fell to $301 million in three deals this quarter compared to $928 million in five deals in Q4 2016.

There were four M&A transactions in the Efficiency sector this quarter compared to two in Q4 2016. In a YoY comparison, there were three M&A transactions in Q1 2016.

To get a copy of the report, visit: http://bit.ly/MercomSGQ12017

About Mercom Capital Group

Mercom Capital Group, llc, is a global communications and research and consulting firm focused on cleantech. Mercom delivers market intelligence and funding and M&A reports covering Battery Storage, Smart Grid, and Energy Efficiency and Solar and advises companies on new market entry, custom market intelligence and strategic decision-making. Mercom's communications division helps companies and financial institutions build powerful relationships with media, analysts, local communities, and strategic partners. About Mercom: http://www.mercomcapital.com. Mercom's clean energy reports: http://store.mercom.mercomcapital.com/page/.

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Read more: Mercom Capital Group Reports Battery Storage,...

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Indian solar sector reaching 10 GW milestone recently has made the 100 GW by 2022 goal more tangible than ever. The growth rate is quite commendable, considering India had only 2.6 GW solar capacity in May 26, 2014. Granted that soaring global solar acceptance and support from Indian Government has played a major role in creating this scenario. However, it is investment that gave Indian solar sector a much-required boost to venture ahead into energy transition without having a strong industrial infrastructure.

Government Initiatives to Increase Investment

100% foreign direct investment under the automatic route and 74% foreign equity participation in a joint venture (without any approval) accepted and upheld by Indian Government paved the path to bring investments in the Indian solar sector. Such policy framework has provided the opportunity to generate 13-15% return on equity invested by the utility companies. Initiating ‘Power for all’ program and illuminating 18,452 un-electrified villages (12, 583 villages already electrified), has also brought foreign investment. Supporting Viability gap funding policy for rooftop projects has made Indian rooftop solar market lucrative for investors. And participating in International Solar Alliance (ISA) has also brought India’s growing solar industry exposure and financial support.

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Current Scenario of Investment

India has 14 gigawatt of solar projects under development and more than 6 GW capacity projects are about to be auctioned. Investment is obviously needed to support this incredible growth. India’s potential of generating solar energy is expected to attract $100 billion investment eventually. Currently, around 293 global and domestic companies have committed to invest approximately US$ 310–350 billion to set up a cumulative capacity of 266 GW in (solar, wind, mini-hydel and biomass-based power) within 5–10 years. From 2000 to 2016, India has attracted about US$ 10.48 billion in foreign investment. An agreement is signed by State Bank of India (SBI) with The World Bank for INR 4,200 crore (US$ 626.3 million) credit facility, to present a better financing model for Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic (GRPV) projects in India. US$ 1 billion is also committed by The World Bank Group to support development and future of Indian solar industry. An agreement committing INR 300 crore (US$ 44.7 million) was also signed by The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) with Germany-based KfW Development Bank to improve floating solar projects in Maharashtra, Kerala and other potential states.

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Challenges Exist

Investment is needed to bridge the energy generation deficit (which is suspected to stand at 5.2% during next 10 years), and to reach 100 GW capacity installation target. Although investment is pouring in, continued fall in solar energy tariff can present the project profitability question and drive away the potential investors. Additionally, there are issues like- power evacuation challenges, lack of land availability, confusion in policy, delays in awarding projects, lack of skilled labour, and O&M facilities are making it hard for the investors to put their money in Indian solar sector.

This is indeed the right time for growth, global acceptance towards solar is on the rise. If India starts to focus on fixing the existing issues, the country can ultimately lead the world by example, and claim a pole position as an energy rich country.

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Read more: Investment Scenario in Indian Solar Sector:...

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Solar energy growth has quadrupled in recent years with the help of Government backed policies and financial aids. Standing at a cumulative 10 GW energy capacity in March 2017. Keeping the impressive growth rate in mind, we can assume that India is very likely to reach 100 GW capacity by 2022.

Currently Indian solar sector has approximately 14 gigawatt of solar projects under development and more than 6 GW capacity projects are about to be auctioned. And capacity addition mandates under state policy shows- Andhra Pradesh to get 5 GW by March 2020, Haryana- 1.3 GW by 2022, Karnataka- 2 GW by 2021, Maharashtra- 7.5 GW by 2019, Tamil Nadu- 3 GW, and more.., which promises growth. Initiatives like- tax-free grants, additional one-time allowance, subsidies and rebates on capital expenditures have helped Indian solar structure to grow and brought in investments into the sector as well.

Policies like- net metering, viability gap funding, International Solar Alliance, mandating solar installation in Government buildings, raising tax free solar bonds, offering long tenure loans, ‘Solar Park’ development, etc. have also successfully created the environment for the Indian solar industry to grow and get prepared for the future. However, comparing Indian solar sector with global solar growth showcases challenges in the sector that we need to focus on.

Contrasting with Global Growth

The urgency of building solar capacity is dawning upon countries across the globe. Countries like China, Japan, US, and Canada have already made significant progress in utilizing solar capacities. And countries such as Philippines, South Africa, Morocco, Chile, and Kenya are now making investments in solar energy. China has installed approximately 34.2 gigawatts of new solar PV in 2016, and US (14.8 GW), Japan (8.6 GW) have claimed the second and third position in dominating the global solar industry, and leading the world PV installations to 75 GW in 2016 alone. On the other hand, India installed 5 GW within 2016, which positions the country at a fair distance from the solar energy leaders.

Countries like China, US, and Japan have built a stable infrastructure to support their solar industry. And it has helped them to create domestic demand and deliver solar modules at low cost, claiming a huge portion of the market. Global growth interprets that investment in solar industry will grow towards upholding solar energy as available replacement for traditional energy choices. India needs to put this growth scenario in perspective to move ahead and make positive changes in its own solar industry.

A Better Approach

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Current Indian solar vision has divided into various segments to bring support in financing, industrial development, demand creation, and reaching competitiveness. In this crowd of choices and requirements, India is losing focus in domestic capacity enhancement, which is the only way to achieve solar self-reliance. If India is to go toe-to-toe with countries that currently dominate the global solar industry, a strong domestic solar capacity enhancement is required. The recent announcement of Energy Minister Shri Piyush Goyal that incentives package for domestic firms will not see the light of day, is therefore actually a severe blow to the Indian solar self-reliance dream.

India desperately needs to act on-

  • Stabilizing flexible financing, incentives, and tax exemption benefits to domestic manufacturing industry
  • Reducing net metering implementation time frame to boost the solar projects implementation
  • Creating demand for domestic solar modules
  • Extending the existing RPOs to consumers
  • Implementing and monitoring use of feed-in-tariff processes
  • Checking if the mandated industries/utilities are using or installing solar solutions or not
  • Increasing awareness on solar technologies
  • Bringing quality guidelines to ensure energy sustainability
  • Developing an easy certification process to establish high growth rate

Further, focusing on solar skill development can bring India the opportunity to harness solar potential by increasing domestic capacity and awareness.

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Government support, raising energy demand, global acceptance towards solar energy, and increasing investor interest, are opportunities for solar sector to grow beyond expectations. And, financial support in guise of multi-billion dollar commitments, which India desperately needs, is coming through mutual efforts of Government and private solar companies (click here for information on Indian solar investment scenario). But challenges are real and they need to be addressed.

The shift towards solar sector can help India scale great heights, claiming a large portion in the global energy sector, but to reach these opportunities, the country needs to boost its own efforts.

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Read more: Indian Solar Sector: Is It Ready for The Future?

The driving force behind Vikram Solar, Mr. Gyanesh Chaudhary appeared in an exclusive CNBC feature on 28th January 2017, providing a detailed scenario of the Indian solar sector and the journey of Vikram Solar in the last decade.

Vikram Solar was incorporated in 2006 and hasn’t looked back since. How do you think solar power has evolved over the past decade and what do you make of the current installed capacities? In your view, what more can be done? What are the challenges you face?

 When Vikram Solar started in 2006, India had not yet realised the immense potential of solar. The Government support, flurry of policies, supportive incentives, and industrial development opportunities that we see today, didn’t exist back in the day.

Today the industry looks a lot sunnier. The disruptive potential of solar energy is not hidden from the world today. In the middle of this energy revolution, alternate energy is undergoing a transformation and becoming ‘mainstream’. As a responsible and one of the leading manufacturers, Vikram Solar realises the need to constantly innovate and come up with disruptive offerings to meet the demands of an ever- growing and energy starved market.

From 2006 to 2010, India’s cumulative grid connected solar power generation capacity grew to a meager 18 MW. But, we trusted the growing global acceptance of solar energy and stood firm upholding our dream. With The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), that established a 20 GW by 2022 target for Grid Connected Solar Projects, Vikram Solar anticipated the changes and stepped in international EPC business in 2010. The real game changer in the Indian scene took place in 2015 with our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi’s, 100 GW by 2022 solar target announcement.

Incentives, easy land allotment, financing, and subsidy options/policies came to support the target. It was a game changer for the industry, and brought new opportunities for manufacturers like us. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi took another decisive action, launching Make in India campaign. It brought more investment, job opportunities, and a platform for technology up gradation in the solar industry.

In just a decade’s time, Vikram Solar has contributed to shaping the solar revolution, not only in India, but across continents. We managed to claim presence across 32 countries, and started expanding at a rapid scale. Vikram Solar is proud to be India’s only Tier 1 PV module manufacturer, and our products are designed to the highest standards of quality, reliability and performance. In 2011, we also ventured into solar EPC, wherein we deploy world- class technology to design, install and commission solar projects worldwide.

With projects as unique as India’s first floating solar plant to benchmark projects like India’s largest rooftop airport solar plant, we have a swaggering portfolio in a short span of time. Incredible solar growth in India has helped us to contribute to its current 8.06 GW installed capacity. We believe, besides handling these problems, more focus on domestic manufacturing capacity enhancement is required to make India a solar energy super power.

To become globally competitive in the solar sector, and to control the quality of solar equipment within the country, India needs to support domestic manufacturing just like leading countries- China, and USA have seen fit to do. We also believe closer industry-government cooperation can solve problems and keep us to the path to achieve scale.

For a detailed audio visual round of the highly appreciated interaction, Please click below:

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Read more: Focusing on Challenges to Facilitate Growth:...

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Zero emission future may be a bit further than our envisaged solar development processes can illuminate now, but it is very much tangible and achievable with continued growth. Countries are moving towards energy shift faster and more aggressively. They are trying to claim as big a part of the growing solar market as they can through huge investments, Government support on industrialization, and technological up gradation. Since solar is new in comparison with the traditional energy, it is understandable that an impressive growth at its infancy will certainly translate into worldwide energy fulfillment at its maturity. Currently, countries are focusing on a 5-year time frame to enhance, support, and build the solar energy platform that won’t ever power down.

Therefore, China $103 bn, USA $44.1 bn, UK $22 bn, India $10 bn, Germany $8.5 bn, Brazil, $7 bn, South Africa $4.5 bn and other countries investing on renewable energy, summing up to a total of $286 bn (approx.) within 2016, seems like the right move to bring a sustainable future closer. And although, better investment and Government backed policies have led to a massive global 75 GW PV capacity installation in 2016 alone, that cannot be the full extent of our efforts to see the sustainable future unfold.

Let us explore three initiatives that can lay a stronger foundation of a clean energy future within 5 years.

Technology Up gradation

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Countries are now forming communities to strengthen solar industry through collaboration. The Paris Agreement was one of the platforms that led not just developed countries like UK, US, and Japan, but also brought developing countries like Chile, India, and Brazil to strategize the best way for solar growth. These platforms made resource and knowledge sharing possible, which resulted in technological up gradation. Through this collaboration, today Indian domestic solar manufacturers have MOUs with leading tech firms from Germany, Japan, and USA; which is supporting capacity enhancement, efficiency improvement, and increase in quality.

China’s Top Runner Program is another methodology that leads to tech up gradation of solar industry, by creating competition. This process is a perfect example how every country should act to incite growth and technological up gradation while strengthening its domestic manufacturing capacity (click here for more information on China’s Top runner program, and what India can learn from it). Although, countries are spending big on renewable energy, focus on technological up gradation is needed to scale higher levels of growth. Therefore, more collaboration platforms (like ISA) and competitive strategies (like Top Runner Program) can help countries bring the change faster.

Plans for Rural Electrification

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It is obvious that development would start where demand is higher, presenting the rationale why solar growth is at its peak around the metropolises. However, to go beyond just reaching a milestone in green energy installation, the world needs to plan for rural electrification as well. Involving the common man is the best way to make solar acceptable, especially when it has to contend with decades old relation between human society and fossil fuels.

Energy scene in the rural areas of developing countries are bleak, with huge number of places still un-electrified. Brazil’s ‘Light for all’ program launched by the Federal Government in November 2003, invested more than $20 bn within 2012, increasing electricity in the rural ambit up to 92.6 per cent. India has also made incredible strides to illuminate its rural areas under Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (12,809 villages electrified out of 18,452). The project has INR 4,843 Crore to support the growth. And the promise of 100 per cent electrification by May 2018 by Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley ensures aggressive and positive reform. Such initiatives should be followed by other developing countries to inform and help common man adopt solar energy, speeding the energy transition within next 5 years.

Energy Security

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With the inception of solar installation as an alternative energy source by developed countries, all the countries have stepped into a competition to beef up their own solar capacities. India is not far behind either, scaling from 10 MW in 2010 to 10 GW in 2017. However, in this race to phase out and save the import expenditure of fossil fuels, countries are ignoring the importance of maintaining energy security. And countries like China are taking advantage of such scenario to dump low quality modules at a cheaper rate, gaining profit and claiming more of the industry worldwide. For example, in FY 2014–15, India imported 161.5 million solar panels, spending almost $821 million. And the import expenditure jumped to $1.3 billion in 2015-16 (Click here for more details on solar dumping issues in India). And since the country has only 5 MNRE accredited module quality testing facilities, we can safely assume that an uncanny amount of low quality modules have already been used in Indian solar projects.

Now, since these projects are designed to satisfy growing energy requirement of the country, being low quality makes them unreliable. Therefore, focusing on energy security by imposing anti-dumping and making more module testing facilities operational would be the right and much needed move for quick and lasting growth.

Obviously, it will take more effort than we have mustered so far, but making solar energy our primary energy source within just 5 years, is possible. We need to remember that green energy transition, is not just a better choice for us, it is the only choice that will sustain a future we desire and deserve.

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Read more: 3 INITIATIVES TO MAKE CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE...

banner

India’s aggressive move toward green energy implementation has helped the country to nearly topple dominating solar installers (countries) and claim their position in the world. Solar capacity additions in India have gathered incredible speed, doubling the solar capacity (from 5 GW in 2015 to 10 GW in 2017) within a year (give or take a few months). Rise in Net metering (30 of the total 36 states and UTs in India have net-metering policies in place) and a flurry of policies have increased on-grid capacity enhancement, and helped illuminate homes forming off-grid plants (more than 12000 homes electrified) as well.

Lag In Meeting RPO Target Decreases Addition Capacity

However, it is no surprise to us that there are challenges in making solar the mainstream energy source. And a primary one among those challenges, is the lag in meeting solar renewable purchase obligation (RPO) targets. As Government of India mandated, states in India have to procure a portion of the energy generation from renewable resources (primarily form solar). However, currently, 25 states (including Union territories) have failed in meeting their accepted target of solar renewable purchase obligation (RPO). Although, the Government push behind solar implementation has increased considerably, reaching 10 GW capacity, calculations show that a better focus on reaching RPO targets would have helped the country achieve near about 18 GW solar capacity within FY17.

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A closer inspection reveals that this lag behind reaching RPO targets has been consistent for more than 5 years in a row. It is quite surprising that even states like Gujarat and Rajasthan that are leading the solar shift in India, and have grid connected solar capacities of 1159.76 MW and 1317.64 MW respectively (quite higher than most of other states of India), have failed to achieve their respective RPO targets in FY ’17.

Lack of focus in helping states to reach RPO targets has reduced power generation opportunities. For example, 2015 had shown more than 5 per cent growth in power generation, while in 2016 power generation stood at 4.6%. As Indian Government has made promises of 100 per cent electrification by 2018, a better approach to meet and further increase the state wise RPO targets is important.

Weak Electricity Transmission Facilities

Besides RPO issue, another challenge in front of India’s quick green energy shift is feeble energy transmission facilities. Lack of focus on grid management has created gaps between energy generation and sending them to the farthest corners of the nation. India’s power demand has increased considerably from 98 kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 1971, to 914 kWh in 2013, 957 kWh in 2014, and 1010 kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2015. And although, power generation in India is growing with more and more solar installations, the weakest link in this process is the distribution process. Beside lack of grid connection availability in the nation, DISCOMS currently suffer from losses due to lack of an upgraded infrastructure.

Therefore, along with ramping up the solar capacity, the Government also needs to get a better grip at chalking up and establishing a functional grid infrastructure in place. Improving the health of DISCOMS is also extremely important to make the power generation process bear fruit.

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Indian solar market is expected to grow at about 90 per cent in 2017, over 2016. The country already has 14 GW capacity of utility scale project in its pipeline, and even the rooftop sector is showing incredible growth surpassing 1 GW mark in 2017, growing more than 75% from 2016. Market predictions showing drop in demand in China, Japan and even possibly the USA in 2017, can help India to claim a larger portion in the world PV market. Properly utilizing these opportunities can lead India to claim a position beside China and USA. To seize these opportunities, India needs to take care of the issues that are slowing down its growth rate.

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Read more: Feeble Transmission and RPO Obligation Issues...
Grid List

 

New inverter maximizes energy harvest from the PV power generation

E-KwBe is a new modular lithiumion based energy storage system which can help to optimize the use of in house solar energy systems, cut the electricity bills and reduce carbon footprint.

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