To encourage the installation of solar panels in private homes, the government is massively subsidizing the prices of electricity sold by EDF. Each kilowatt-hour produced by the owner saves him between 9.52 and 17.19 cents. This income is guaranteed for twenty years, excluding local installation assistance. Result: The total capacity of the French solar park currently exceeds 10 GW and is set to double by 2023, predicts RTE.
Local carbon-free electricity is a good way to meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Except that all this extra energy isn’t really useful to us. Worse, it could wreak havoc on the entire industry, warns MIT Technology Review.
The problem is that this influx of solar energy occurs when it is not needed. Peaks of consumption occur either in the morning before 9 am, or in the evening from 6 pm to 8 pm, when the sun is out. Conversely, solar panels operate at full capacity during the summer during the daytime when demand is low.
Wholesale electricity prices are falling, according to a report by the Breakthrough Institute on California. “Between 2014 and 2020, the cost of solar energy fell by about 37% compared to other sources of electricity generation,” pay attention to the authors.
In spring, deflation can reach 50%, and prices go into negative territory. So far, the decline in cost has been more or less offset by the fall in the cost of PV modules (-90% between 2010 and 2019). But this shallot race could end badly. “It will be more difficult to convince developers and investors to build more and more solar power plants if they make less money or even lose it,” MIT warning.
“California provides an idea of what the rest of the world can expect as we see a surge in solar energy,” warns Zeke Housefather, author of the report. California, which generates 19% of its electricity from solar energy, is well ahead of France (2.5%). But here, too, this share is constantly increasing. Italy and Germany already account for 8.6% and 7.9%, respectively.
Storage systems like batteries or hydrogen can better regulate the flow of electricity. It is also possible to improve connectivity by building new lines or encouraging consumers to consume during production peaks.
However, investors may not have the patience to wait. Governments will then be faced with a dilemma: to continue to increase subsidies at the risk of exacerbating the problem, to find other low-carbon energies that are less volatile or imposing and too detrimental to the profits of promoters.