Could solar fuel the next energy revolution?

By James Noble

February 26, 2015

A new report from the energy research company Wood Mackenzie argues that solar technologies could potentially disrupt US energy markets in the same manner and to a similar degree as the shale industry did a few years back.  And, the potential impact of solar’s breakthrough on natural gas markets could be great enough to stop the shale revolution dead in its tracks.

Just as technology advancement propelled shale gas development to new heights, solar module efficiencies are helping drive the growth of solar.            

Over the past several years, the dramatic fall in installed solar PV pricing has led to the rapid transformation of solar in the North American power market from a niche technology to a key renewable competitor, to now, a potential disruptor of utility business models and the energy industry at large. 

Technology advancement in the form of new photovoltaic materials such as perovskite has the potential to further propel the solar market.

Nevertheless, just as the growth of shale gas benefitted from deregulation in the natural gas industry, the scope of the solar transformation will depend on political decisions made in the future.  Today’s market structures also remain unequipped to accommodate large volumes of solar energy, and utility rate design will also need to adapt.

Canada is among the top ten countries in terms of installed solar, as provincial and territorial governments support solar power through policies aimed at simplifying the regulatory framework for customers. 

To date, most of the large installations have been erected in Ontario where the province’s feed-in tariff has provided significant support to renewable energy development through high power rates. 

Though the feed-in tariff has been discontinued for large-scale solar power projects in Ontario, solar projects across Canada will continue to benefit from direct and indirect support measures designed to boost renewable energy capacity while reducing fossil fuel consumption.

 

Photo Credit: Mark