Developing The Mediterranean’s Photovoltaics

Upgrading the grid and creating an open market will encourage the development of photovoltaics in the Mediterranean.
Published: Thu 21 Aug 2014

The “Promotion of photovoltaic (PV) energy through net metering optimization” (PV-NET) project, carried out by the University of Cyprus, has a €1.3 million (US$1.67 million) budget which is being funded by the EU through its MED programme. The programme sees 13 EU member states – including all the bloc's northern Mediterranean member states – working together on competitiveness and sustainability.

The net metering project will focus on the improvement of net metering policies across Europe and will see pilot net metering schemes introduced in Cyprus, Slovenia and Portugal.

The university team’s aim is to investigate the best way forward for the penetration of photovoltaics by resorting to other market policies rather than feed-in tariffs, explains Dr George E. Georghiou, Associate Professor, PV Technology, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Cyprus, who spoke to Engerati at the European Union Sustainable Energy Week.

Net metering as an alternative to market policy

The cost of electricity from photovoltaics is much lower than that of conventional grid power. Because of these low rates, feed in tariffs are not necessary. However, the development of an appropriate energy policy, which will support the development of photovoltaics into the energy mix, is essential.

The project’s team is researching net metering as an alternative to market policy for the uptake of photovoltaics into the energy mix. The project consists of six partners from six Mediterranean countries. Pilot projects will be set up in these countries in order to study data received from prosumers. This information will be used to develop and optimize net metering policies for each country.

“There is a need to turn this into a sustainable market. To do this, you have to work towards an open market. Net metering is a transition to this open market. Essentially, you want to take into consideration all the costs associated with the distribution, transmission and production of electricity and then incorporate all of that into your model to be able to compare like with like,” explains Georghiou.

Avoiding energy bottlenecks

Georghiou says there are two issues at stake:

  • Grid integration – ensuring that the grid is stable enough to allow penetration of photovoltaics to make it sustainable

  • Open market – to encourage competition.

He also points out that the grid of the future will have to be made smarter to enable participation of producers and prosumers. Energy storage will also have to be incorporated to assist with the intermittent nature of renewables.

“The grid and market must be sorted out before there is an even larger penetration of photovoltaics. If this is not resolved in time, bottlenecks will develop,” explains Georghiou.