Week in review: China is top market for renewables, solar closer to parity than ever

PV array on a home in VirginiaAcross the world, China remains the best opportunity for developing renewable energy projects, that’s according to one new report out this week. Other recent reports point out that the price of solar continues to drop and another shows it will reach parity by the end of this decade. Meanwhile Denver was named the first ‘Solar Friendly Community’ for its efforts to make it easier for residents to go solar. But then again it’s not giving away PV arrays like California’s Sullivan Solar Power is during the holiday season.

China remains the most promising market for undertaking renewable energy projects, according to a new report out from Ernst & Young. The report, the Renewable energy country attractiveness indices report, found that China remains the best place to undertake renewable energy projects like solar or wind. The U.S., however was determined as the best market for solar projects. And the report also found that emerging markets are playing an increasingly larger factor, particularly as incentives in countries that have dominated the market, like Germany, for instance.

Those emerging markets will continue to benefit from lowered photovoltaic costs in the U.S. and elsewhere. For instance, the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) recently released its “Tracking the Sun” report which found that the price of installed solar continues to fall largely because of price drops in the cost of photovoltaics. The report found that the average installed price of residential and commercial PV systems completed in 2011 fell between 11 percent and 14 percent compared to 2010.

Seconding that report is a recent GBI Research report, which contends that the price of photovoltaics will reach parity with other forms of electric generation by 2020. The report: “Solar Photovoltaic Power Market to 2020—Market Leaders to Achieve Grid Parity due to Decreasing Module Prices, Low Maintenance and Ease of Installation”, said that 98 percent of the world could see solar reach grid parity by then. Like the LBL’s report GBI said the main reason for the price drops will be lower costs in photovoltaic modules.

Helping drive down the costs of installed solar—particularly in the U.S. where there are thousands of localities making their own requirements for solar—will require more than just dropping PV modules prices. That’s why Denver, Col., was rewarded as the first ‘Solar Friendly Community’ last week, for its work to make it easier for residents in the town and county to go solar. The Solar Friendly Communities program is part of the DOE’s SunShot Initiative’s Rooftop Solar Challenge campaign to reduce the soft costs like administration and permitting costs.

While Denver is making it easier for people to go solar it’s not just giving away solar power. But Sullivan Solar Power, an installer in California, is. The company partnered with GRID Alternatives to install solar on a number of 'low-income families’ homes in California this holiday season. Under the offering Sullivan will donate a PV module for each system it installs over the holiday season.

While the majority of solar incentives in the U.S. are offered on a local basis the federal government has also been a driving force for solar. But those incentives are continuing to sunset. To help keep them going and the CEOs from chambers of commerce from across the country talked with federal legislators to inform them of how vital the incentives have been to jobs growth in their communities. The hope is that Congress will continue to support solar rather than let solar incentives go the way of the dodo as they determine how best to balance the budget and reduce the deficit. 

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