Research by Gartner and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) found that utilities are increasingly interested in purchasing photovoltaic (PV) systems to their generating portfolios. According to SEPA, the joint survey found that PV is a leading technology, as utilities look for near-term measures of adding more energy generation. Gartner’s report is available and SEPA’s becomes available on August 19.
The organizations surveyed utilities in Europe and the United States to understand how utilities are attempting to integrate PV into their portfolios. Overall, the survey had 134 respondents between mid-December 2009 and mid-February 2010. They conducted telephone surveys in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United States, and an online survey in the United States.
Among responding United States utilities, 44 percent said they had PV energy resources already operating. And 33 percent more are considering adding PV to their portfolio within five years.
“Clearly, U.S. utilities, and their customers, have been exploring the PV market,” asserted Mike Taylor, director of research at SEPA. “The large number of U.S. utilities that are using PV systems indicates that they are building up their experience with the technology in anticipation of expansive solar growth and new policy initiatives that could occur.”
Much of the interest in PVs comes from lowered system costs. Alfonso Velosa, research director at Gartner, noted that “system costs have decreased by over 30 percent since 2008. This has lowered the cost of electricity from these systems and improved their competitiveness relative to other renewable energy sources.” PV systems also “can be designed relatively easily, in a wide range of sizes and to fit in many different locations,” he said.
Three-quarters of all German utilities have integrated PV into their power mix, the research found. Another 15 percent of German utilities plan to add PV to their generation portfolio in the next five years. The efforts in Germany are bolstered by the county’s strong efforts to promote renewables in the country.
The discrepancy in growth of the PV market in the United States is partly because of policy. The survey showed that policy has strong influence over utilities’ energy generation practices, Taylor said.
“Although price declines will continue to make PV more competitive with retail and wholesale electricity pricing, it is unlikely that the importance of policy will decline significantly in the near-term,” he said.