Rooftop Solar Costs Fall 5% in Latest French Tender

Fifth rooftop auction sees farmers taking 40 percent of 230 megawatts.

France’s latest rooftop solar auction saw prices dropping 5 percent compared to a previous round in April, according to the government.

The tender, for 230 megawatts of rooftop solar across 392 projects, saw costs falling from an average of €80.80 (USD $92.77 at current exchange rates) in April to €76.80 ($88.22) per megawatt-hour.

Larger projects within the tender went as low as €72.20 ($82.87) per megawatt-hour, marking a record for the French market, the government said.

François de Rugy, the recently appointed French Minister of Ecology, said in a press statement in September: “Once again, solar installations [are] show increasing competitiveness.”

Based on government figures, solar power in France has fallen in cost by about 62 percent since 2011, when prices were at €190 ($218) per megawatt-hour.

The government press release noted that 40 percent of the projects awarded in the round were on agricultural buildings, potentially providing new revenue streams for farmers.

The other big winner in the tender was the French solar developer Amarenco France, which came away with 32 megawatts of projects.

The capacity means Amarenco has now won more than 100 megawatts in government-sponsored rooftop tenders to date, putting it “far ahead” of competitors Urbasolar, with 81 megawatts, and Solar Technology, with 68 megawatts, the company said in a press release.

Amarenco will be investing €120 million ($138 million) in developing the projects, the company said. Last month’s tender was the fifth of nine auction rounds that have been scheduled to take place every four months after kicking off in March 2017.

The tenders are intended to award capacity for systems of between 100 kilowatts and 8 megawatts. The largest plant in the latest tender was 7.7 megawatts.

France’s next rooftop solar tender round is scheduled for Nov. 5 and will be for 300 megawatts of capacity, the government said. France also runs separate auction schemes for ground-mounted PV projects and self-consumption systems.

The self-consumption scheme is designed to offer 1.35 gigawatts across nine tenders spread over three years. Last month it saw the government awarding 20 megawatts across 48 projects.

Although projects are eligible to sell electricity back to the grid at a rate of €26.80 ($30.77), “the average rate of self-consumption of the winners in the tender is very high,” said the authorities, “on the order of 98 percent.”

According to Reuters, the latest data from the ministry shows France is lagging on its 10.2-gigawatt target. “Total installed solar capacity was at 8,500 megawatts as of the end of June,” Reuters said.

By 2023, France aims to install between 18.2 gigawatts and 20.2 gigawatts of solar as part of plans to achieve a 32 percent share of renewable energy generation by 2030.

The country upped its solar aspirations last December, when de Rugy’s predecessor, environmentalist Nicolas Hulot, increased the country’s annual capacity target from 1.45 gigawatts to 2.45 gigawatts.

But Hulot’s resignation last month raised concerns over France’s solar and wind energy ambitions. De Rugy was expected to steer energy policy back toward nuclear power, which makes up 75 percent of the electricity generation mix at present.

It is unclear if this position will change with the publication of the latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which predicts “rapid, fair-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” in the next decade or so stemming from changes in the climate.

Following the release of the report, France’s President Macron appeared to call for greater urgency in fighting manmade climate change. “We have everything we need to combat climate change,” he said via Twitter. “But everyone has to act now!”


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