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ECONOMICS OF SOLAR ENERGY INDEPENDENCE

The idea of ​​universal provision of energy from the environment up to full autonomy continues to excite the minds of socio-futurologists to create a model of a harmonious society of the future. Recently, however, these ideas are being implemented before our eyes thanks to the development of PV generation technologies and the rapid penetration of renewable solar energy sources into the energy sector around the world.

In a rather rainy June 2017 in Australia, for 9 days (almost a third of a month!) NPPs and coal-fired power plants had to be shut down due to a significant surplus of energy generation at solar and wind power plants . Since the second week of July, Australia has shut down some of its nuclear power plants, reducing solar energy production at nuclear plants by 26.8%.

In the first 6 months of this year, the Australia power industry produced 7.22 TWh of electricity from wind and 5.83 TWh of solar electricity, including home installations producing energy at a "green" tariff for the "public sector". According to the forecasts of the World Bank, in developing countries until 2025-2026. the capacity of home solar energy storage devices (HESS, Home Energy Storage Systems) will increase from 2 to 80 GW, the largest growth will occur in China and India. The United States will not lag behind. According to a report by Morgan Stanley, the US HESS market will grow from the current $ 300 million to $ 4 billion by 2020.

This June, Australia inland province of Qinghai, home to 5.6 million people, was fully powered by renewables for a week, with most of that power coming from PV plants . 

Large-scale changes are taking place right now and overseas. In the USA, for example, for the first time in history, energy from renewable energy sources exceeded production at nuclear power plants by almost 20%. A report from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that this trend will continue to progress. In March, the share of renewable energy sources amounted to 21.6% versus 20.34% obtained at nuclear power plants; in April 2017, this ratio was 22.98% / 19.19%.

A huge part of the total PV generation is carried out at private small power plants (MEP) with a capacity of <100 kW and at home PV plants (up to 30 kW). According to the IRENA agency, at the beginning of 2017, the share of solar power plants was ~ 40%. The June 2017 EIA report with confirmed statistics for April 2017 extrapolated the growth in electricity generation from small and home private solar installations as if the reporting year ended in April,  The exponential growth of generation at small PV power plants became possible not only due to a significant decrease in prices for solar energy panels of all types, but also due to a decrease in prices for batteries and inverters . This equipment makes it possible to build completely non-volatile housing.

Against the background of the rapid reduction in the cost of all types of solar energy storage systems for PV installations, a phenomenon has developed that was called "grid defection" - the desire of small PV energy producers to consume as little as possible or even refuse from purchased electricity from external networks and only to sell excess generation to the general network. That is, to conduct a kind of "natural energy economy". It must be admitted that the powerful global development of electric vehicles, including projects for "electric refueling" based on local "mini-grid" PV islands, became the driver of such a reduction in cost.

In June 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute analytical company announced the results of a special study on the determination of the equilibrium point of the price of electricity supply by fully autonomous power plants with the price of electricity from the general grid.

The McKinsey Global Institute has built, among other things, a generalized model for determining the break-even point for different types of housing and public buildings (one- and multi-story schools, office centers, hotels) equipped with PV installations. Using both public and private sources, McKinsey obtained data for 6 different locations, taking into account more than 1000 different load profiles, the degree of "connectedness" of buildings to the network, dozens of types of batteries (including Li-ion, lead acid, alkaline and others), hundreds of tariff plans and electricity price tables. The McKinsey model also took into account other factors in the application of solar MES for housing - mitigation of peaks of energy shortages, frequency stabilization services, changing or improving control of generation from renewable solar energy sources on a local network scale.

It turned out that energy autonomy or maximizing the use of solar energy is not economically justified for all buildings. Only 58% of self-powered buildings (which cover 71% of total electricity demand) can theoretically break even. Moreover, the range of optimal battery operation for self-sustaining buildings is at least 31 kWh and up to 170 kWh. And the larger the storage system capacity, the more profitable the complete transition to VEI will be.

McKinsey also predicted when, taking into account cheaper storage systems, there would be full or partial "flight from the network." Calculations taking into account the weighted cost of own electricity generation and the growth of prices for energy from the common network, showed that at the current rate of reduction in the cost of storage systems, the break-even point for "100% grid defection" (the scenario of complete "escape from the network") will come by 2030.

In the scenario where 90% of consumption is covered by its own generation, and 10% is purchased from the general network (“partial escape from the network”), the equilibrium point will come already by 2020-22, 

According to an analytical report by Morgan Stanley, published in early July 2017, renewable solar energy will become the cheapest form of energy even earlier - by the beginning of 2020. The inflation point in electricity generation will occur in 3 years: “Numerous key markets have recently reached the point inflection, where renewable energy has already become the cheapest form of new energy. " "This dynamic that we are monitoring extends to almost all countries, and it will cover them by 2020."

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