On-site solar will remain cheaper than electricity from the grid.
Investing in behind-the-meter solar generation is a no-regret move, if you agree with in the fundamentals described below. In times of high uncertainty and complexity it’s a good idea to return to fundamentals. For assessing the economics of behind-the-meter solar generation, there are three main factors to look at:
1. The retail electricity price
Due to old coal capacity reaching the end of its technical lifetime, there will be a need for new electricity generation capacity from 2021/2022. This capacity is likely to be gas due to its natural fit with the system requirements – high reliability, lower emissions and flexibility of generation to meet demand. The boom in LNG has linked domestic gas prices to higher international gas prices. To recover the costs of a new gas power plant investment, electricity prices will rise further.
2. The levelised cost of solar generation
The technology cost will continue to decrease due to economies of scale and additional efficiency gains. Kobad Bhavnagri (Bloomberg New Energy Finance) stated that “by 2032 new solar should outcompete incumbent coal” at the Australian Clean Energy Summit 2017. More detail can be found in his presentation, titled ‘Australia’s shift to base-cost renewables’ (see slide 10).
3. The support scheme for renewables
This seems to be the factor with the highest level of uncertainty. However, it is important to note that price risk is limited until the end of 2020, due to market price signals (forward trading of LGCs). Beyond 2020, uncertainty increases. This is reflected in the graphic below, showing the indicative range between the expected case and worst case.