Solar power is booming across the globe, and public auctions have become the dominant tool for deployment. But a lack of solar-specific experience and capacity in newly adopting countries can result in technical failures and lower solar plant performance. International quality standards used as technical requirements in the design of public auctions could offer a solution. A Policy Brief developed by PTB, TU Berlin, PI Berlin, IASS Potsdam and Ferdinand Consultants outlines the potential benefits and challenges.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), 106 countries held renewable energy auctions by the end of 2018. One third of the 55 countries that held renewable auctions in 2017 and 2018 did so for the first time. An earlier study of nearly 100 solar projects in different countries had however found widespread problems: nearly 30 percent of the analysed projects had severe deficiencies that impacted performance. This makes investment in solar plants in newcomer countries risky, hindering the development of the solar sector and undermining efforts to achieve solar energy deployment targets in the affected countries.
In the Policy Brief “Technical requirements in public auctions to make solar plants shine”, the authors synthesise key lessons from international experiences with technical requirements in solar PV auctions and make three recommendations:
1) Define technical requirements in line with national solar policy objectives
The specific country context and policy objectives for the development of the solar PV sector play an important role when devising a strategy for the introduction of technical requirements in auctions. In particular, the state of the national Quality Infrastructure system should be taken into account, ensuring that local project developers can access the services needed to fulfil the technical requirements.
2) Promote the use of international quality standards
Clear and accessible communication of technical requirements is key to increasing quality and ensuring compliance with standards in the solar sector. Highlighting their links to policy objectives can foster concerted work towards a common mission, while effective incentives should be used for the PV industry to adapt to new quality requirements.
3) Monitor compliance with international quality standards
Public authorities should monitor compliance with the quality standards required in the tender documents. Proof of compliance can be guaranteed through in-person inspections at the plant commissioning stage as well as remote, digital monitoring of real-time generation data once the power plant is in operation. This also allows for the impact of quality standards on the plant performance to be evaluated.