International geopolitical dust-ups and solar power deployment don’t overlap on a regular basis, but the crises in Ukraine and Crimea do have a photovoltaic element in play. Several large utility-scale solar PV power plants in the newly annexed Russian region—many of which are owned by Activ Solar–benefit from being part of the Ukrainian feed-in tariff policy, but the future of those plants being compensated by that lucrative scheme is now in doubt. Market research group IHS, PV magazine, and PV Tech have all taken a closer look at the situation, and conclude that the eventual outcome remains murky.
IHS analyst Josefin Berg notes that her group “has revised down the 2014 PV forecast for Ukraine from 430 MW to 100 MW, with the market likely to be made up solely of plants that are currently under construction. For the period 2015 to 2018, continued political unrest and renewable energy policy revisions cloud the outlook. Ukraine had been the 13th largest market in the world in 2013, but IHS predicts that it fall outside the top-20 in 2014.” She believes that “PV plants in Crimea will eventually fall out of the Ukraine support scheme,” noting contradictory statements from public figures in the news of late.
PV Tech reported on the confusing situation last week, noting in an updated story that “Ukraine’s new energy minister Yuri Prodan was quoted saying subsidies to operational PV projects in Crimea would be discontinued, though this was in contrast to a previous assessment of the situation by the European-Ukrainian Energy Agency, who said Ukraine would probably continue the payments as long as it still considered Crimea to be part of Ukraine.”
PV magazine cites an unnamed “industry source within Ukraine, who told the publication “that payment for electricity produced from Crimean solar parks would end on March 21. This information can be verified later when deadline for payment will come. I heard talks that Crimean solar parks will be granted with PPA tariff, according to the Russian policy of renewable energy support. It will be clearly less than it is now in Ukraine. I heard it would around five times less than it was in Ukraine.”
The source went on to say “that Ukrainian politicians were discussions an FIT reduction for solar to the level of energy from wind. Market players are clearly against it, but I doubt they can influence the situation. This will clearly affect relations with the EU as well as the overall investment climate, but the beneficiaries of this ‘old’ tariff were representatives of the former political power. The task of the new government, as well as demand of people, is to cut or reduce it to a minimum.”
Ukraine had emerged as a healthy, nearly gigawatt-scale market in recent years. The solar resource is especially rich in the southern part of the country/region, especially in Odessa and the Crimean peninsula, as the SolarGIS map shows above. IHS’s Berg notes that the country had 747MW of solar PV capacity in operation—with 300MW located in the Crimea–and a pipeline of 700MW at the end of last year. All of the solar PV power plant owners have benefited from the very healthy FIT of up to 61 cents per kilowatt-hour instituted in 2010.
One final question on the trade media coverage of the Crimean/Ukrainian solar issue: Why did Solar Industry, which picked up much of the IHS note in its report, inexplicably headline its story “Russian Tanks Cast Shadow Over Ukraine’s Solar PV Outlook”? Is “Russian tanks” trending as an SEO keyword phrase or something? Am I supposed to imagine a column of T-90s rolling toward a solar farm for 125mm artillery practice? I don’t get it. If I were working the slot at the imaginary solar publications copy desk, that header would have been quickly nixed.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ACTIV SOLAR; IRRADIANCE MAP COURTESY OF SOLAR-GIS