Brazil, where solar installations last year were less than 1 percent of those in world leader Germany, is developing policies that may boost rooftop panel sales to $3 billion within 20 years.
Homeowners and businesses in Brazil may now trade electricity generated during the day by rooftop solar systems to utilities in exchange for the power they consume at night, under rules announced April 17 by the Brasilia-based power regulator Agencia Nacional de Energia Eletrica.
The practice, known as net metering, is widely used in other countries and will make solar energy more practical for consumers, driving up demand, said Luis Otavio Colaferro, managing partner of the Ribeirao Preto, Brazil-based panel distributor Blue Sol Ltda.
“This market will expand,” he said in an interview yesterday. “Previously, houses could install panels but only consume power at the time of generation.”
Blue Sol expects panel sales to increase 50 percent annually as homeowners seek to cut their power bills. Electricity prices in Brazil are double the rates in some U.S. markets and increasing by about 10 percent a year, Colaferro said.
$3 Billion Market
Brazil may install as many as 300,000 rooftop photovoltaic devices worth $3 billion by 2030, Nelson Fonseca Leite, president of the Brasilia-based trade group Associacao Brasileira de Distribuidores de Energia Eletrica, said in an interview.
Under the net metering rules, power generated by renewable sources -- solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric systems --will earn credits that utilities are required to accept in exchange for electricity consumed from the grid.
The country installed panels with 4 megawatts of capacity last year, mostly in rural areas, compared to about 7,500 megawatts in Germany, the world’s largest solar market last year, Guilherme Araujo, chief executive officer of Sao Paulo-based developer Empresa Brasileira de Energia Solar, said in a telephone interview.
“We’ve got big expectations for the short-term,” he said. “Net metering is an excellent incentive.”
Sunshine in Germany may generate as much as 1,050 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually for every kilowatt of installed capacity, Jenny Chase, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Zurich, said in an e-mail. Sunlight that falls on some parts of Brazil, which straddles the equator, may generate more than 1,400 kilowatt-hours from each kilowatt of capacity annually, she said.
The new rules issued by ANEEL also offer incentives for larger solar plants. Projects with capacity of as much as 30 megawatts will qualify for an 80 percent discount on fees for using power distribution and transmission systems.
Companies including state-controlled Eletrosul Centrais Eletricas SA and Tractebel Energia SA proposed last year 18 photovoltaic projects with total capacity of 24.6 megawatts, according to power regulator ANEEL.
Most of those will start construction by the end of 2013, Leonidas Andrade, director of photovoltaics at the Brazil trade group Associacao Brasileira da Industria Eletrica e Eletronica, said in a telephone interview.
“This year will be a historic moment for solar energy,” Andrade said.
Brazil has one large-scale photovoltaic project in operation, a 1 megawatt plant in Taua that’s owned by Rio de Janeiro-based MPX Energia SA.
Solar companies are planning to begin or expand production in Brazil.
Braxenergy Desenvolvimento de Projetos de Energia Ltda., a Brazilian renewable-energy developer, may build a $50 million factory to produce solar cells, Chief Executive Officer Helcio Camarinha said April 3 in a telephone interview.
Tecnometal Equipamentos Ltda., Brazil’s only photovoltaic panel maker, plans to invest more than $127 million to build a factory that purifies silicon and another facility to process the material into solar cells, Business Manager Carlos Evangelista said at a solar conference in Campinas, Brazil, last month.
A 12 percent tax on imported panels and domestic taxes increase the price of solar panels in Brazil to about 10 reais ($5.32) a watt of capacity, about double the price in Europe, said Colaferro of Blue Sol, which buys all its equipment abroad.
Installed costs for solar panels in Germany fell 23 percent to 1.97 euros ($2.58) a watt in the first quarter of 2012 from a year earlier, according to Germany’s solar trade group Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft.