Tag Archives: Concentrated Solar Power

International public finance supports South Africa’s deployment of concentrated solar power

August 21, 2014 |

 

Among emerging economies, South Africa has particular potential for solar power because of the country’s excellent solar resources. While fossil fuel power generation currently provides over 90% of its electricity, South Africa is seeking to reduce its reliance on carbon-intensive coal-based energy.

The Government of South Africa (GoSA) has developed policies to transition to a clean and sustainable energy system. In order to exploit its abundant renewable energy resources, South Africa has adopted an ambitious plan to add 20 GW of new renewable power generation capacity by 2030 (almost 50% of current generation capacity). Of this, 3.3 GW is expected to be from concentrated solar power (CSP). This is approximately equal to the current installed capacity of CSP worldwide.

CSP: A promising technology for low-carbon energy systems
CSP is a promising energy technology for low-carbon energy systems as, in combination with thermal storage, it can store solar energy in the form of heat to deliver clean power when it is most needed. It offers a real chance to act as a viable substitute for coal-based energy. Despite its potential, CSP technology lacks a long deployment track record and still comes with high technology risks, which translate to higher financing and overall costs. This means that most projects need public assistance in the form of low-cost public finance or political support to be bankable.

South Africa’s state-owned electricity utility Eskom is currently planning to install its first CSP power plant in Upington in the Northern Cape region of South Africa. In a recent Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) case study, conducted with support from the Climate Investment Funds Administrative Unit, CPI examined this plant to understand how public support helped advance this project. It also looks at the financial and technological challenges for Eskom and the reasons behind the extended project development time.

Eskom CSP plant in Upington now back on track
Eskom CSP remains one of the most ambitious CSP power tower projects under development anywhere outside of the U.S. with respect to its technology choice, capacity and storage. After several years in development, the project was placed on hold in 2009 during the global recession, largely because reduced access to capital and increased pressure from GoSA to improve the country’s energy security at low cost led Eskom to reassess its investment priorities.

Read More

Indian concentrated solar power policy delivers a world-leading CSP plant but still needs adjustment

June 5, 2014 |

 

Solar power is one of the most promising options for India to meet its growing electricity demand. While the construction of further fossil fuel power plants is slowing due to lower domestic coal production than expected and the high cost of fuel imports, installations of solar plants are on the rise.

As discussed in a CPI blog, the Government of India’s National Solar Mission, started in 2010, has achieved targets for promoting solar photovoltaic (PV), having seen 660 MW deployed by January 2014. However, plans to deploy concentrated solar power (CSP) – a less mature and currently more expensive alternative with key technological advantages that allow it to deliver power reliably and when it is needed – did not meet with the same success. Over the same period, the government tendered 500 MW of CSP but successful bidders have only installed 10% of this deployment target to date.

In the coming days, however, the National Solar Mission takes an important step forward in its CSP efforts, when the 100MW Rajasthan Sun Technique CSP plant – the largest CSP plant built so far in India and the largest worldwide using linear Fresnel technology – is connected to the grid. In a recent CPI case study, financed by the Climate Investment Funds Admin Unit, Climate Policy Initiative examined this plant to understand why this project was implemented, while others under the National Solar Mission are still delayed. Some of our key findings include:

  • The Government of India’s measures, including awarding a subsidized power purchase agreement (PPA) and payment security scheme through a competitive reverse auction, were essential to getting the Rajasthan plant built but they were not enough to deploy CSP at the desired scale. Indeed, the only winning bidders able to build CSP plants at the low tariffs that resulted from the competitive bidding process were those that had financially strong private stakeholders and were able to source public debt. The 100MW Rajasthan Sun Technique CSP plant, for instance, benefitted from USD 280mn of long-term foreign public debt, a project developer both willing to take risks to establish itself in the Indian CSP market and willing and able to accept low returns, and a technology provider that contributed comprehensive warrantees.
  • India’s CSP policy kept costs to the public low but it will need adjustment to increase the certainty and speed of deployment and meet the country’s ambition to establish a national solar industry. Strong competition among project developers resulted in several submitting bids at prices that put them among the cheapest CSP tariffs worldwide (see also our previous paper on the global CSP landscape). However, project delays, possible cancellations, and difficulties in sourcing technologies and financing experienced by several of these developers – due in part to the challenge of building at such low tariffs – meant India was unable to meet its CSP targets and capitalize more fully on learning-by-doing, establishment of local supply chains, and investments in basic infrastructure, as developed during the implementation of projects like Rajasthan Sun Technique.

If a reverse auctioning scheme is used in India for future scale up of CSP, the design could be substantially improved and the Indian government could increase the likelihood of timely project implementation by:

  • Including stricter qualification requirements for bidders in terms of CSP experience and financial strength
  • Setting out more realistic timelines for bidding
  • Making reliable on-site solar irradiation data available
  • Allowing sufficient time for construction but also then enforcing penalties more strongly for delayed projects

With the 100MW Rajasthan Sun Technique plant commissioning, Indian CSP policy takes an important step forward but there is still a way to go before large scale up of the technology allows the country to balance the cheaper but fluctuating solar PV and wind power with more reliable CSP plants.

Read More

Is concentrated solar power getting any cheaper? And what role can policy play in bringing costs down?

January 22, 2014 |

 

In the past, renewable energy technologies have been much more expensive than their fossil fuel competitors but costs of wind and solar have come down after public support has deployed them at scale. In fact, costs of solar photovoltaic power plants have decreased roughly 20% and wind power plants 15% every time installed capacity has doubled.

For concentrated solar power (CSP), experts have projected a cost reduction of 10-15% for every doubling of capacity. However, new CPI analysis shows that CSP has not demonstrated cost reductions at the global level with increased deployment over the last five years, but it has done so in some regions for some CSP technologies.

Read More

Could one of the cheapest Concentrated Solar Power plants be a turning point for this technology?

July 2, 2013 |

 

Has Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) finally turned the corner, going from an emerging technology (albeit with 20 years of history) to an (almost) commercially-ready one?

Ouarzazate I CSP less expensive than average CSP plant

CPI recently published an update to an earlier report on a large-scale CSP plant to be built near the city of Ouarzazate in Morocco. CPI finds that the project has apparently broken two taboos with the successful completion of its financing: the widely held view that a large scale infrastructure project could not be financed within its planned budget, even more so in an emerging economy; and that technology costs for CSP could not come down from the USD 6000/KW mark where they have been stuck since the ‘90s.

Read More