Grid Parity and Net Metering - Hot Subjects for Israel's Solar

Created: 2012-12-11 14:57 EST

At the recent Eilat-Eilot annual conference for renewable energy entrepreneurs, scientists and politicians were concerned about the Grid Parity possibility and its advantages.

Grid parity is when the cost of electricity generated from solar energy equals or is competitive with that of conventional power.

In 2008 the Israeli government adopted a policy of incentives for solar energy by applying a feed-in tariff.

Feed-in tariffs allow renewable energy companies or private individuals to contribute to the grid and receive compensation for their energy.

Israel's national electricity company started buying solar energy and paying a very high tariff - three times more than the price of conventional energy - and assured contributors a fixed price for a period of 20 years.

Since this decision, the solar industry has boomed and hundreds of new companies have sprung up.

The Israeli government has set the goal of generating at least 10% of the country's electricity with renewable energies by the year 2020.

However, the cost of the incentives have become a burden on Israel's budget, which is already under stress from the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Since its implementation, the feeding tariff, or the incentive to solar providers has been constantly dropping.

Solar energy reaching Grid Parity can address the financial problem of high governmental incentives to solar projects.

"Hundreds of countries have reached grid parity, Israel may be one of them," said Professor Eugene Kandel, Israeli Head of the National Economic Council
 during the conference.

Kandel mentioned four benefits resulting from grid parity:
-    Replacement of existing technology, fuel, and capital saving
-    Reduction of CO2 emission (not easy to calculate)
-    Energy security and price stability – "as long as the sun shines"
-    Possibility of regional development

Net Energy Metering

But the production of solar electricity is not stable because it  depends on the weather patterns and other shade factors.  

Israel's Minister of Energy and Water, Dr. Uzi Landau, that one of the solutions was to adopt the policy of Net Energy Metering (NEM).

"Net Metering is proved to be a possible way to encourage solar energy development at a low cost to the nation," said Landau.

NEM refers to a special billing arrangement whereby customers use their own solar energy  and and only send their surplus back into the grid. If they use energy from the grid, such as in cloudy weather, their costs will be offset by whatever they have given back to the grid as excess. This way, solar energy producers can accumulating credit when the sun shines, and put it towards energy when the sun doesn't shine.

Technological Breakthrough

Landau mentioned that  $2,612,876 (10 million Shekels) has been allocated by the Institute of Scientific Research and Development towards the development of new technologies.

"Israel does not compete with big PV manufactures, the advantage is in research and invention of new technologies," said Landau.

One of the problems of solar PV technology in urban conditions is the interference from shadows.

"Solar Bead", an Israeli start-up company, proposes a solution to the problem.

"In general, a PV panel is the smallest independent unit, and if there is shadow interference, even if small, like an electric cable, it affects the whole panel," said Amir Makover, the founder of the company.

According to Makover, the micro-inverter, a new invention of the company, can extract the electricity from a much smaller area, like that of several PV cells.

The Micro-inverter looks like a small box connected to the solar panel and connects by WI-FI to the consumer's computer for monitoring.  

"It can expand harvesting efficiency to more than 50%, depending on the interference," said Makover.

Solar Bead's micro-inverter is in the final phase of testing and will start a pilot project in 2013.

With new technologies, fuel prices rising, PV manufacturer competition, and the right governmental policy, the future of solar energy in Israel looks brighter.

NTD News, Israel