Research by Gartner Inc. and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has revealed that utilities are becoming increasingly interested in procuring photovoltaic (PV) solar power generation systems. The survey found that PV is one of the leading technologies for near-term renewable energy for utilities. The survey also found that utilities view onshore wind and biomass as the other key near-term renewable energy sources.
Gartner and SEPA conducted a survey of utilities in Europe and the U.S. to understand their requirements and objectives for integrating PV solar systems into their energy generation portfolios. A telephone survey of utility firms in the U.S., Germany, Spain, Italy and France was supplemented by an online survey in the U.S. The survey was conducted from mid-December 2009 through mid-February 2010, and it included 134 respondents.
German utilities lead in the use of PV resources, with 75 percent of German utilities surveyed using PV as part of their energy resource portfolio. An additional 15 percent of utilities are considering adding PV to their portfolios within five years. To a large extent, this reflects a decade-long effort by the German government to support renewable energy.
“Clearly, U.S. utilities and their customers have been exploring the PV market,” said Mike Taylor, director of research at SEPA. “To some extent, they may also have been learning from activities in markets such as Germany. 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.”
“Overall, the survey indicated that federal policy and state regulatory levels have strong influence over utility procurement decisions and strategies,” 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.”
“But while EU utilities feel a similar influence from policy, their mechanisms and processes for acquiring PV generation are very different,” Velosa said. “This points to a hazard for the PV industry. If policy does not adapt to the changing pricing environment and other budgetary pressures, there may be a backlash against PV and other renewable energy sources.”