Czechs have taken up the fight against high prices: solar panels covered tens of thousands of roofs last year, the market grew by 366 percent.

The sharp increase in energy bills, the uncertainty resulting from the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine, the quest for partial energy self-sufficiency and the fight against climate change – these are the main reasons for the rapidly growing popularity of photovoltaics in the Czech Republic. Last year was clearly a record year in terms of the number of rooftop power plants on family homes. Almost 34,000 of them were commissioned, with a capacity of 289 megawatts, an increase of 366 percent. Businesses are also trying to reduce electricity costs; data from support programmes show that this segment has also experienced unprecedented growth. But the current solar boom is running into a major limit, which is the lack of installers and questions around the quality of their work. This is one of the reasons why the Solar Association publishes a quality code for installers.

In 2022, a total of 33,760 solar installations were connected, with a total capacity of 288.8 megawatt-peak (MWp). Compared to 2021, when 9,321 plants with a capacity of 62 MWp were built, this represents an increase of 262% in number and 366% in capacity. The largest number of power plants were connected in the Central Bohemia Region (6,079), while the smallest number was in the Karlovy Vary Region (682). Last year, small-scale PV plants with a capacity of up to 10 kWp, i.e. primarily domestic installations, were also the driving force. 32,909 of them were connected with a total capacity of 237.3 MWp. The segment of corporate installations also significantly strengthened and for the first time in many years, large projects above 1 MWp were built in the Czech Republic. This is also reflected in the average size of power plants, which increased from 6.6 kWp to 8.6 kWp. “We have had a truly record-breaking year with growth that will continue this year,” says Jan Krčmář, executive director of the Solar Association, adding: “There will be a huge number of company-built power plants from the National Renewable Energy Plan this year.” More than 6,000 companies have applied for subsidies so far.

The fundamental difference is visible in the accumulation: while companies can often use most of the electricity they produce immediately, households need to store it for later. That’s why 9 out of 10 new domestic PV plants now include a battery, compared to only 41% of larger plants. However, from this year onwards, hundreds of megawatts of large-scale renewables will start to be added, for which there will not be enough energy storage due to the lack of legislation and unnecessary restrictions of public support rules. And this could mean a big problem in the future, which we as a sector have been warning about for many years. It is necessary for the government to remove all obstacles to the development of energy storage along with the support for the development of RES,” says Jan Fousek, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Solar Association and Director of the Association for Energy Storage AKU-BAT CZ.

It was also a record year for the Solar Association, which recorded an unprecedented increase in the number of new members from the segment of installation companies. However, the hunger for quick installation of large quantities of small power sources brings an expected problem, namely the lack of qualified installers and proven installation companies. “The number of enquiries for a suitable power plant solution and a reliable contractor was enormous last year. We have therefore developed a twenty-eight-point guideline for the construction of rooftop PV plants, the fulfilment of which by the installer should guarantee sufficient information, a well-designed project, trouble-free installation and safe operation of the plant for anyone interested in a solar power plant. A list of our member companies that have committed to this quality code will be published on our website,” says Jan Krčmář, an important guide for the selection of a supplier.

While in our country we count new photovoltaic sources in the lower hundreds of megawatts, more than 1,000 MW have been built in our southern neighbours and even 4,900 MW in Poland. The total capacity of a large number of small rooftop plants is not sufficient. A significant increase in the share of emission-free electricity and a reduction in energy prices will be ensured mainly by large sources. With the help of the modernisation fund, ground-mounted power plants above 1 MW are already being built, and we could soon see the first agri-voltaic projects combining agricultural production with solar electricity generation. Until now, their development has been hampered by administrative and legislative obstacles, which the Solar Association has long been working to remove.

“This year, we hope that the roofs of residential buildings will finally find a use. Ongoing legislative changes remove the need to obtain a licence for sources between 10 and 50 kW and simplify the way individual households connect to a common power plant and the distribution network. These are long-awaited necessary changes that will expand photovoltaics into this segment”, says Jan Krčmář on the outlook for 2023 and continues, “the emerging trend is sharing and community energy. Examples from abroad prove that this is a workable model, whether it is housing cooperatives, municipal solar power plants or, for example, photovoltaics as part of the local distribution network in larger industrial areas.”

However, inflexible legislation is not the only obstacle to the expansion of photovoltaics. “With the emergence of a large number of decentralised sources, the transmission system needs to be strengthened, because the construction of renewable energy sources is finally becoming an energy priority in the current situation,” concludes Jan Krčmář.

Source: Czech Solar Association

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