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Alex McLean and Alan Bissett consider how the changes could skew the merit order for local generators and end ROCs in Northern Ireland.
It is an extremely dynamic time for the Single Electricity Market (SEM) with significant domestic regulatory uncertainty around critical issues such as priority dispatch, review of the Capacity Payment Mechanism, constraints and curtailment and transmission loss adjustment factors. The UK Government White Paper on the reform of the electricity market follows the Electricity Market Reform consultation from the Department of Energy and Climate Change and is expected to result in the largest shake-up of the UK electricity sector since privatisation in the 1980s and early 1990s. This process provides both a challenge and an opportunity, as increasing demand and a move to cleaner generation are set against the backdrop of the closure of existing generation plants. Key elements of the proposed reforms include a shift from the current renewables obligation (RO) system to a new system of long-term contracts which are intended to provide clear, stable and predictable revenue streams for investors in low carbon technologies and increase security for investment.
The carbon price support commitment being considered as part of a HM Treasury and HMRC led proposal to reform the climate change levy across the UK, including Northern Ireland, suggests the introduction of a carbon price support mechanism, or carbon floor.
It is proposed that the carbon price support mechanism will be implemented from 1 April 2013, which will involve making changes to the way that the Carbon Change Levy (CCL) and fuel duty are levied so that they are paid on all fossil fuels used to generate electricity in the UK.
In Northern Ireland, increased costs due to the changes in CCL are likely to form part of the short run marginal cost of Northern Ireland generators and be reflected in wholesale prices within the SEM pool, distorting the merit order and increasing prices to consumers. Suppliers in the UK are currently obliged to supply a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources through the RO. Suppliers meet their obligations by surrendering Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) in respect of electricity obtained from eligible renewable energy sources in the relevant period. The RO systems for England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland currently operate in unison. Proposed feed-in tariff with contract for difference Under the reforms proposed in the White Paper, it is proposed that the RO system in England and Wales will be phased out in favour of a new mechanism to encourage investment in renewable facilities called the feed-in tariff (FIT) with contract for difference (CfD). Under the FIT with CfD model, generators sell their electricity into the market and receive a top-up payment if the wholesale prices are low. It is proposed that the current RO in England and Wales will be maintained until 2017 for new projects and 2037 for existing projects. Scotland and Northern Ireland have control over their own RO mechanisms and can decide whether to follow the proposed changes in England and Wales. It is understood that Scottish ministers have publicly stated their support for the current RO system but will consider their position on the wider market reform proposals. We’ve had some bad news this year, like wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, floods, exploding oil trains, imploding governments, and an international consensus of climate scientists affirming that the end is probably nigh: Any enviro can see these are dark times for the climate. And yet, technically and financially speaking, solar news of late is looking pretty solid across the board. Then Mosaic started paying back loans with 4.5 percent interest last January, and the game got changed. Even these impressive earnings end up small potatoes compared to the $5.6 million they have been able to raise in the year since then to fund solar installations from New Jersey to California. For you New Year’s resolutionaries, try taking Mosaic’s pledge to put solar on something (anything?
In fact, moan-and-groan as we might about subsidized oil and grumpy politicians, the country as a whole is moving right along.
In 2011, two-thirds of the company was bought by Total, the French oil company that seems to be serious about greening up its act. For example, net-metering does not take into account other costs needed to maintain and upgrade the power grid. Minnesota, despite being blanketed in Arctic conditions for a good chunk of this winter, is nevertheless the past year’s utility solar champion, as it became the first state to introduce a comprehensive and transparent value of solar policy. In "The World We Made," green guru Jonathon Porritt writes of a future where we fix the planet with renewable energy, smart food systems, and jetpacks. The rapidly improving technology, declining costs, and increasing accessibility of clean energy is the true bright spot in the march toward a zero-carbon future.

At the same time, external influences are playing an unprecedented role on the domestic regulatory landscape with the emergence of the EU target model for regional market integration and the UK electricity market reforms having particular significance for the SEM. The proposed new regime aims to tackle the disparity in cost between traditional coal and gas generation and low carbon options, overcoming their relatively high barriers to market entry including high construction costs in the face of market illiquidity. Other proposals include the introduction of a carbon price floor and emission performance standards which will place an annual limit on the amount of carbon that new fossil fuel power plants can emit.
By putting a price on carbon for UK electricity generation, it is hoped that the result will be the further incentivisation of investment in low carbon electricity generation by improving the economics of low carbon investment.
To date, the percentage RO requirement in Northern Ireland has been a lower percentage than is required in other parts of the UK. Where suppliers do not have sufficient ROCs to cover their obligation, they may purchase additional ROCs from the marketplace. Whilst there are some minor differences in support levels, all three obligations are implemented in the same way and the buy-out funds are unified. If prices become higher than the cost of low carbon generation, the Government could recover money from generators. Although the date is to be confirmed, the new FIT with CfD mechanism would be introduced in 2013 or 2014.
The White Paper acknowledges that energy is a devolved matter and states that the Government’s preference is the introduction of a UK-wide FIT with CfD regime. In Northern Ireland, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment is concerned that the carbon floor price proposals, together with the EMR proposals for a FIT with CfD regime and ‘vintaging’ of the RO from 2017, have not been developed with due consideration of the potential adverse implications for either the NIRO or Northern Ireland’s 2020 target.
There has always been a tension between participation in the SEM and the UK RO and CCL regimes.
But if you squint hard enough through the gloom, a literal and figurative ray of sunshine emerges! While solar power can pack a punch when skies are blue, it flames out quickly in the face of clouds. Solar Mosaic spends millions of (someone else’s) dollars: If you are not content to consider solar power an investment in the future of humanity, how do you feel about it as an investment, period? While continuing to fund feel-good solar projects around the country, the company now markets itself as a slick and sustainable supplement to any investment portfolio, with projected yields between 4 and 7 percent. In the first 24 hours of the rollout, all Mosaic’s public projects had been totally funded. Utilities try to not be so Scrooge-y: Not to let everyone else have all the fun, a few green-inclined utilities are trying to reverse the bad-guy image they earned from long public fights against net-metering and other benefits for solar users.
This policy, based on transmission and distribution value, among other factors, will set a prive for solar every year — which means utilities can no longer bluster about how useless solar power it. This article will focus on the impact of the proposed UK electricity market reforms and, in particular, their impact on the merit order in the SEM and Northern Ireland Renewable Obligation Certificates. The proposals are also hoped to encourage investment in generation and transmission, which is expected to be in the region of ?110 billion by 2020, more than double the current rate. Electricity generators can reclaim the duty charged on oils in full and it is proposed to reduce the amount of fuel duty that electricity generators can reclaim.
Alternatively, electricity suppliers can satisfy the RO by making a payment into a buy-out fund.
The top-up payment or repayment would be calculated as the difference between the average market wholesale price and the agreed tariff level. The UK energy market reforms represent a critical point for Northern Ireland to make decisions about its energy future.
New materials and methods are continually producing solar cells that perform better than their early crystalline silicon antecedents; meanwhile, cheaper thin-film cells are also improving. In order to be a viable power source for the juiced-up world, it needs to keep working for us during drizzle, frizzle, “wintry mix”, thunderstorms, snowstorms, sandstorms, smogstorms, solar eclipses, total eclipses of the heart, and (maybe we should have mentioned this first) nighttime.

The storage software, called DemandLogic, is designed to reduce costs for commercial solar users based on when energy demand is the highest (coincidentally, often in the middle of the day when solar energy is the most readily available). Solar panels seem poised to upend traditional utility models, according to those same utilities. Solar Mosaic broke out the tried and true crowdfunding model in 2010 to help average Joes fund solar installations on the roofs of nonprofits, schools, shelters, and the like. That rush was fueled by more than 400 investors, buying in anywhere between $24 and $3,000. During this past July, the aggressively solarized country broke the record for the most solar energy generated in a month.
The financial heft of Total will mean a plunge in borrowing costs for SunPower, and a steady line of credit to help invest in new technology.
On average, 2000 kWh of solar energy falls on every square meter of the country every year. Sure, some of that was probably motivated by the usual greed and fear, but mixed up in there were some legitimate concerns.
It should also increase solar production across the state as businesses and home-owners can rest assured that their investment will pay out as promised. The proceeds of the buy- out fund are paid back to suppliers in proportion to the number of ROCs they have surrendered. In effect, the CfD provides a government hedge against fluctuations in the wholesale electricity price.
And upgrades are not limited to the lab: Your wallet may see an increase in efficiency as well.
The system should also be able to provide power to the grid during blackouts — all of which should smooth the way toward global solar hegemony. The energy was then leased to the business in question, and investors were rewarded with a slow and steady payback on their original loans. In that 24 hours, investments added up to more than $313,000 — roughly equivalent to how much Mosaic raised in their first two years of operation.
Last November, Total-backed SunPower was chosen to build a $200 million solar project in Prieska, South Africa. Elsewhere on the continent, access to raw, organic, unfiltered solar radiation is even greater, while access to electricity is at a minimum — at least for now.
Though the terms of the policy limit solar panelers from making a profit, and only applies to investor-owened utilities, it is still largely a win. Despite attacks from groups like ALEC and lawsuits from grumpy utilities, solar panel users are out there saving the planet while saving money. Location may play a role — are you in a position to supply energy to a remote section of the grid? It puts Minnesota up there with solar darlings California and Hawaii, and could provide a model for other states to follow on our way to a sunnier future. Sometimes they even make a little cash selling the electricity from their panels back into the grid. The energy will be sold to South Africa’s largest utility, Eskom Holdings, which currently provides 95 percent of the country’s energy. And please share more solar wins near you in the comments below and on the social networks.

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