[ExI] The silent PV revolution

Alfio Puglisi alfio.puglisi at gmail.com
Thu Mar 29 17:13:38 UTC 2012

During the last few days, I have realized that something very interesting
is going to happen on electricity markets this summer: there is a
non-negligible chance that a major country is going to have so much
production from solar photovoltaics that it will have to *export*
a sizable fraction of it.

The facts: Italy has a population of about 60 million, and peak electricity
usage that hovers around 50 GW on working days, and 40 GW on weekends.

This February, mid-day PV production peaked at almost 10 GW. That's about
330% more than last February. Generous feed-in tariffs have fueled this
crazy growth. Given the explosive results, tariffs are being slashed every
few months, but PV installations show no signs of slowing down.

The graph of hour-by-hour prices in the electricity market
is mightily interesting: http://www.mercatoelettrico.org/It/  (top left
graph, red line is instantaneous price): two peaks at 9am and 8pm, while in
the rest of the day the market is flooded with PV-generated energy, which
keeps prices down. A few years ago the shape was totally different - a
high plateau during the entire day.

in 2011, PV generation in August was 5x the one in February. If the trend
holds, Italy risks to have too much electricity for its internal market at
certain times (starting from noon at weekends, and working down from
there), and will have to export. That's quite a change, since Italy has
been a chronic energy importer for entire *decades*. Countless electrons
inside the power lines coming in from France, Switzerland and Slovenia will
have to suddenly move in a direction they have never witnessed before.

Traditional energy giants are lobbying like hell the government to regulate
the market back into something more manageable (for them), but I think it's
too late. Gas-burning plants, designed to spin up during demand spikes,
are already  being priced out.

Is there anyone out there closely following the same developments, or it's
just me having unhealthy interests? :-)

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