Eurelectric says PV system owners should pay for network access

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Owners of PV systems should take “more responsibility” for the cost of adding PV generated electricity to transmission networks, the head of the distribution system operator (DSO) unit at electricity company trade body Eurelectric, has said.

In an interview with PV Tech, Gunnar Lorenz argued that in the view of Eurelectric, the capacity of transmission networks to carry electricity is a more important factor in determining cost than the number of kilowatt hours of electricity taken from or added to the network by individual generators.

He said: “…the general trend should be to go toward market premium or market integration”, or “direct marketing with a premium for renewable energy sources in order to accommodate the increased capacity onto distribution networks, moving away from the feed-in tariff system”. Lorenz tempered his statements by saying that the impetus to move to market premium-based pricing should be higher in countries with higher penetration of PV, such as Germany.

Eurelectric includes around 2,400 companies in its membership, from 32 different countries. Member companies include GDF Suez, the chief executive officer of which, Gerard Mestrallet, is an influential member of the Magritte Group. The Magritte Group is the association of 10 energy company executives that have been campaigning to change EU energy policy away from favouring increases in renewable energy capacity, formed in May.

At a press briefing held on Tuesday, Frauke Thies, policy director at the European Photovoltaics Industry Association (EPIA), said while she was unwilling to speculate what influence utility companies had behind the scenes in influencing EU energy policy, it was officially known that Magritte Group “have been asking to stop support for renewables”.

Thies argued that utilities should become more involved in the transition to a higher proportion of generation from renewables. Thies urged utilities to “take part in the game with the PV industry and prepare the market progressively for this new technology”.

Speaking in favour of promoting the integration of PV into the power market, and replying directly to Lorenz’s advocacy of a premium being applied to renewable energy generated electricity, Thies told PV Tech: “Provided that market rules are adapted to allow for a fair access, a floating feed-in premium to cover the difference between market price and targeted support level could be one option.

“However, for small-scale installations this approach is neither desirable nor cost-effective: today we have 2.7 million PV system connected to the grid. With current market rules and structures, the direct marketing of power from all new PV installations would be highly inefficient or even impossible. Here, alternative avenues, for example through a combination of self-consumption and feed-in-tariffs, present a more realistic and cost-effective solution.”

Responding to a further statement by Lorenz that Eurelectric is happy for PV system owners to benefit from the falling costs of PV, provided they are “able and willing” to participate in Active System Management, Thies said, “The PV industry, in collaboration with distribution system operators, is working actively on the provision of system services, including reactive power for voltage control and many other features that can be provided by PV inverters.

“Such services should become marketable, but current regulations exclude their use and remuneration. A modernisation of the regulatory framework is essential for the smooth integration of growing shares of renewables.”

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