US targets solar at $30/MWh; UK slashes cost outlook

Solar power news you need to know.

The U.S. solar boom has cut system costs faster than expected. (Image credit: hxdyl)

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US DOE targets solar costs of $30 per MWh by 2030

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Sunshot initiative aims to lower the cost of utility-scale solar power to $30 per MWh by 2030 as costs are already approaching the target of $60/MWh it set for 2020, the DOE announced November 14.

"In just five years the SunShot Initiative and the U.S. solar industry have achieved more than 90% of the established 2020 goal to reduce the cost of utility-scale solar PV electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour [$60/MWh]. Utility-scale solar electricity costs now average $0.07 per kilowatt-hour," it said.

If projects can achieve the Sunshot program's targets this could "more than double the projected amount of nationwide electricity demand that could be met by solar in 2030 and beyond," the DOE said.

The DoE announced $65 million of new funding initiatives to accelerate cost reductions.

This will include $25 million towards improving PV module and system design, including hardware and software solutions which will speed up installations and interconnection of PV systems, it said. Some $30 million will be provided to bring new products and solutions to market and a further $10 million will be available for projects which improve the forecasting of solar irradiance and power generation.

                                US SunShot Initiative progress and targets

Source: DOE.

US implements new land leasing rules to boost development

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has introduced new land leasing regulation and financial incentives to support renewable energy development in areas with the highest generation potential and fewest resource conflicts.

“The rule’s competitive leasing provisions will help renewable energy development flourish on the 700,000 acres of public lands that have been identified in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah,” BLM said in documentation published November 10.

The new regulation introduces competitive bidding and streamlines review processes for land leasing to encourage development within designated leasing areas (DLAs). The new rules also allow the BLM to implement competitive processes outside of designated leasing areas.

The regulation aims to ensure transparency and predictability in rents and fees by giving developers the option of selecting fixed-rate adjustments instead of market-based adjustments, BLM said.

Fees have been updated in line with market conditions “which will bring down near-term costs for solar projects,” it said.

The federal Climate Action Plan calls on the Department of the Interior to permit 20 GW of renewable power capacity by 2020. The Interior has so far approved 60 utility-scale renewable energy projects for a capacity of 15.5 GW.

The BLM regulations will become effective 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register.

UK slashes 2020 PV cost forecast to 67 pounds/MWh ($83/MWh)

The levelized cost of energy of U.K. utility scale solar plants is forecast to drop from 80 pounds per MWh ($98.8/MWh) in 2016 to 67 pounds/MWh ($83/MWh) in 2020, according to a new report published by the U.K. government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The cost prediction for 2020 is some 25 pounds/MWh lower than predictions made by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in 2013.

"This reflects unanticipated cost reductions and technological improvements for these technologies, reduction in hurdle rates, and/or this progress occurring faster than previously estimated (for example due to accelerated global and domestic deployment)," BEIS said in its report, published November 9.

The BEIS expects utility-scale PV costs to drop to 63 pounds/MWh by 2025 and 60 pounds/MWh by 2030.

                      Levelized cost estimates for 2020 (pounds/MWh) 

Source: BEIS.

GTM Research raises global installation forecast

GTM Research has raised its global PV installations forecast for 2017 to 69 GW, representing a year-on-year decline of 7% compared with 10% in previous estimates, Greentech media reported November 16.

Global demand is expected to hit a record 74 GW this year and the latest estimates for 2017 take into account a slump in module prices, shifting pipeline estimates for utility-scale solar and rising demand in India, GTM Research said.

Analysts at GTM Research currently forecast global installations to rebound to 74 GW in 2018 and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9% between 2016 and 2021.

China cumulative solar capacity was 44 GW at the end of 2015 and the country is forecast to install a further 26 GW in 2016.

Germany had 38 GW of solar capacity at the end of 2015 and remains in second place behind China but Japan and U.S. lie in third and fourth place respectively and are expected to soon overtake Germany.

Eskom CEO resigns; renewables firms eyes closer ties

Brian Molefe resigned his role of CEO of Eskom on November 11 following the release of a report by the graft ombudsman into the influence of the wealthy Gupta family in South African state affairs and the state-owned utility.

Molefe was accused of favoring the Gupta family in coal supply contracts in a report published by the Public Protector on November 2.

In a statement, Molefe said his resignation was "not an admission of wrongdoing" and he was doing it in the interests of "good corporate governance."

Molefe has reportedly questioned the affordability of renewables and The South African Renewable Energy Council (Sarec) said it hopes the of new leadership of Eskom will improve communication lines with the renewable energy industry.

“We have...found the increasingly irrational and inaccurate criticisms levelled at renewable energy and the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Program (REIPPPP) by Mr Molefe and Mr [Matshela] Koko in recent months difficult to fathom, particularly since neither has ever sought to engage with the industry directly through well-established platforms to do this,” Mike Levington, Sarec board member, told local media.

South African renewable energy capacity initially soared following the introduction of the REIPPPP in 2011.

However, activity has slowed following delays to Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) due to be signed by Eskom and underinvestment in the power grid.

Faced with ongoing financial difficulties, state power utility Eskom has not matched the expansion in generation capacity with necessary strengthening of the grid, particularly in the sun-drenched Northern Cape province in the north-west, where PV capacity has soared.

The REIPPPP has thus far procured 3.4 GW of wind, 2.4 GW of PV and 400 MW of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) capacity and has attracted 193 billion rand ($13.4 billion) of private sector investments, according to government figures published in late 2015.

Jordan launches 200 MW solar tender

Jordan has launched its third solar power tender for 200 MW of utility-scale projects, according to reports.

Jordan is seeking four plants of 50 MW, Hadi Tahboub, president of the Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA), told pv magazine.

Jordan's second solar tender was held in 2015 and saw around 200 MW of PV capacity awarded at prices between $61 and $77/MWh.

In addition, Jordan's National Electric Power Company and Masdar of the United Arab Emirates signed last month the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for a 200 MW plant being developed by Masdar near Amman, Jordan's capital. This followed an agreement in January between Masdar and Jordan’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR), to build, own and operate the plant.

Jordan has set a target of 15% of domestic electricity production from renewable energy sources by 2020, equivalent to some 1.8 GW.

In December 2015, Jordan inaugurated the 117 MW Tafila wind farm, its first utility-scale wind project. The project was jointly developed by InframedMed, Masdar and EP Global Energy.

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