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Go solar or pay more for energy—in Europe

A solar array on spanish tileA senior energy consultant at Great Britain-based GlobalData is advising people in Europe, particularly in Britain and Italy to go solar now or face higher energy costs. The business intelligence firm is already predicting that domestic gas prices across Europe will rise by about 10 percent in 2013, making solar a better investment than ever.

GlobalData’s Head of Consulting for Power and Utilities Jonathan Lane is advising consumers across the continent to invest in photovoltaics now or lose money in the long term. “Twenty-thirteen looks pretty grim for both energy consumers and utilities,” he said. “Prices are sure to rise again for energy consumers, as both renewable subsidies and higher oil prices push electricity and gas prices higher across the continent.”

However, he also noted that “Renewable subsidies represent a cost and an opportunity for domestic energy consumers. Those that can fund the installation of solar PV, or borrow the money to do so, should invest.” He added, “Those that can’t will have to pay.”

Lane contended that Great Britain and Italy are the most susceptible to such price increases and whose residents are most likely to benefit from installing PV. “The UK has feed-in tariffs for solar which make it economic,” he said. He also noted that a new policy in Britain to simplify tariffs will help.

In the past Italy has been one of the fastest growing solar markets in the world, thanks in part to generous solar incentives. But after the country’s economic issues became more apparent, some have criticized the country for making such investments, while its debt surmounted. That’s changing, according to Lane. “Higher electricity prices and lower panel prices means that Italy can lower its incentives.” The lowered incentives and module costs means solar is still an attractive investment in the country.

In fact, given Italy’s electric prices and solar resources, solar could see parity with grid-based electricity very soon. “In fact solar may produce lower priced electricity that the grid after 2014,” Lane said. “The UK has a far lower solar yield than Italy so it will take much longer to reach grid parity.”

Lane also anticipated that Europe’s utilities will come under fire as they raise prices because of oil and gas cost increases. He contended that utilities should start looking to making money through energy efficiency making measures, rather than just by selling energy. “Eneco, the Dutch utility, has  gone furthest in this regard,” he said. 

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