Rooftop solar getting cheaper than the grid in Brazil

Brazilian solar installationIt’s happening! The cost of electricity from rooftop solar power is becoming cost-competitive with grid-supplied electricity in Brazil—and sometimes cheaper. That’s according to a new report from the country’s energy department, Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica. As South America’s largest country and likely it’s wealthiest, having the price of rooftop solar come to parity with grid-based electricity is an important bellwether.

As recently as June, during the World Renewable Energy Forum, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that Brazil would join a growing number of countries where solar is at parity with grid-supplied electricity. He noted that prices for grid-supplied electricity in both Italy and Spain are at parity with solar now. “Australia has now dipped below that and can now dip into this mode of: ‘Oh! That's cheaper. By 2013 Brazil will slip in and California is on the cusp. This is residential,” he said.

The report found that the cost of a 5 kilowatt rooftop photovoltaic array in Brazil costs about 602 reais per megawatt hour produced. That’s equivalent to about $299 a megawatt hour, according to Bloomberg. 

The report found that of the country’s 63 utilities 10 of them had rates higher than 603 reais per megawatt hour by early 2011. The rates ranged between 240 reais and 709 reais per megawatt hour, according to a Google Translate version of the report. 

The report said it shows that residential solar already is cost-competitive in some situations and, and in some situations actually beats the cost of grid supplied electricity. 

The cost of solar in Brazil can be further lowered if homeowners buy their panels through the government’s Proesco program, according to Bloomberg. Under that program the costs of residential solar fall to 586 reais per megawatt hour, the news outlet said. 

While costs for residential power are becoming lower than grid-supplied electricity, the same can be said for commercial applications. The cost of PV for the commercial sector is 86 percent of the cost of the residential sector in Brazil, according to the translation. 

photo courtesy of NREL