Small-Scale Solar Is Bound To Expand Rapidly After New EU Renewable Energy Deal

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The pan-European media network EURACTIV reports on the positive results from talks among negotiators from the European Parliament and EU member states. The deal includes a legally binding EU-wide target of 32% renewable energy by 2030 and a phase-out of the use of palm oil in fuels in the same period.

Small scale solar PV will get a boost

While the agreement of ditching the use of palm oil in itself is a big achievement, it is the agreements on energy self-consumption that caught my eye. Installations of up to 25 kW of solar need not worry about grid regulations and taxes, but can be configured any way the owner wants in terms of grid output and/or battery storage. For home owners and small businesses this opens up a great deal of opportunities. Greenpeace puts it this way in the report:

The agreement between the European Parliament and EU governments establishes the right of European citizens, local authorities, small businesses and cooperatives to produce, consume, store and sell their own renewable energy, without being subject to punitive taxes or excessive red tape.

For communities and citizens across Europe this could be a big deal. It will now be much easier to organize small-scale energy systems to fit individual needs in housing and industry. The new EU directive refers to renewable energy communities as a key to the success of the clean energy transition as a whole.

The EURACTIV article has this to say on the practical implementation of the agreements:

The deal includes the creation of contact points to advise and support people interested in installing solar panels, a barrier until now because of the sometimes complicated procedures in place. The EU has also agreed to remove all charges on electricity produced by households that is consumed on premises, meaning “taxes on the sun”, as it has come to be called in Spain, would be impossible.

According to Ingeniøren this also means that countries like Romania can no longer claim that private home owners have to register a business in order to sell excess electricity.

Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU’s climate and energy commissioner who was acting as a mediator in the talks, sealed the deal after an all-nighter:

Solar is unstoppable and untaxable

I think solar power will overwhelm us all in a very short time span — like within a couple of decades. This CleanTechnica summary on solar paints a very clear picture of where we are headed.

The new 25 kW rule is part of the realization that if you don’t allow small solar systems to connect to the grid and at the same time administer their self-consumption without interference, they will just go rogue instead, and that could in fact hurt the whole system.

Granted, in 4 to 5 decades we might all walk around with tinfoil hats collecting all the power we need off-grid, but until then, it is crucial that grid operators and government don’t provoke the masses to go off-grid, whether it be legal or not.

It is important that the coming all-present smart-grid will load balance every single piece of renewable hardware to help run the fossil fuel era out of the game.

I reached out to Thomas Boersma, project manager at Solarplaza, and asked him about his take on the agreement of not regulating homeowners and small business installing up to 25 kW solar:

I think it is obviously a step in the right direction. It’s a driver for more residential and local solar. It will also drive the business case for storage and partially also EV’s. However it should be kept in mind that this will also increase the urge for a well functioning market for local energy and flexibility. For the most part, prosumers will work on balancing their own generation and consumption “behind the meter”, as that will yield greater benefits. This may create a self-reinforcing effect which will make the grid increasingly less attractive and more expensive, which is also known as “grid defection” or “the death spiral”. The right mechanisms allowing for local energy trading and the right incentives schemes impelling participation on such markets will be necessary to keep an affordable and reliable grid.

Exactly. The question is if these policies will be able to keep up with the ever falling prices of solar PV and batteries? The alternative might be total energy anarchy. Is that good or bad? What do you think?

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Jesper Berggreen

Jesper had his perspective on the world expanded vastly after having attended primary school in rural Africa in the early 1980s. And while educated a computer programmer and laboratory technician, working with computers and lab-robots at the institute of forensic medicine in Aarhus, Denmark, he never forgets what life is like having nothing. Thus it became obvious for him that technological advancement is necessary for the prosperity of all humankind, sharing this one vessel we call planet earth. However, technology has to be smart, clean, sustainable, widely accessible, and democratic in order to change the world for the better. Writing about clean energy, electric transportation, energy poverty, and related issues, he gets the message through to anyone who wants to know better. Jesper is founder of and a long-term investor in Tesla, Ørsted, and Vestas.

Jesper Berggreen has 233 posts and counting. See all posts by Jesper Berggreen