About 2.7GW of solar will be installed across 700,000 Brazilian rooftops by 2024, according to national power regulator Aneel.Net-metering rules were introduced in 2012, yet only 7MW has so far been installed. And about 400 of these 700 rooftop arrays were put up in the first six months of this year.
Some believe that this upturn — due to the recent surge in power prices, rumours of power shortages and increased knowledge about the technology — is the start of exponential growth for the segment.
But the sheer cost of panels and financing remains a huge problem.
With an average annual salary of R$2,100 ($7,700) and arrays costing R$10,000-30,000 — and interest rates on consumer loans higher than 50% — rooftop solar power remains the reserve of businesses and wealthy individuals.
ABSOLAR’s Rodrigo Sauaia says the lack of affordable financing is this market’s biggest hurdle.
“Our calculations indicate that interest rates must be, at the most, 9% a year, and only BNDES has these rates,” he says, explaining that installers would probably have to buy locally produced modules to obtain such financing.
There are currently no local-content requirements for rooftop panels, with all 500-plus rooftop PV installers in Brazil importing their panels from China and the US. The government believes that locally produced panels will be able to compete on price with Chinese modules in a few years’ time, with installers keen to remove foreign exchange risk from their businesses.
“From 2018 onwards, we’ll see an exponential growth curve in rooftop solar, and module assemblers have planned separate assembly lines for rooftop,” says Sauaia.
The authorities are working to improve the attractiveness of rooftop solar by removing value-added tax on self-generated power, halving grid-connection time and allowing neighbourhood projects that link up to 5MW of individual arrays.