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Engie picked to spearhead Brazilian rooftop solar roll-out

Brazilian power distributor Celesc has picked the local subsidiary of French utility Engie to install 1,000 rooftop PV arrays over the next 12 months under a new subsidy scheme.

“This is a model that will be implemented in other states [in Brazil],” said Rodolfo Pinto, CEO of Engie Solar, the company’s local rooftop unit. “It’s rewarding to participate in this pioneering programme because our company aims to be leader in Brazil’s rooftop market.”

Celesc, which is controlled by the southern state of Santa Catarina, will subsidise 66% of the rooftop arrays. The remaining 34% will be paid by Celesc clients, who will be included in the country’s net-metering programme through bonuses on their electricity bills over the next five years.

By Celesc’s estimates the total investment for one 2.6kW array is around R$20,000 ($5,886) with a four- to five-year return. 

The programme comes as Brazil’s fledgling net-metering initiative has reached over 43MW of solar PV, with around 6,000 arrays installed from 2012 through to the end of October 2016. This compares with just 1,800 arrays and around 25MW at the start of the year.

The growth started in earnest following 40% to 50% increases in power bills since last year, a wave of VAT tax exemptions on net-metering arrays, and after power regulator Aneel revised net metering regulations to speed up installations and clear up technical issues. In the next 10 years, the government expects rooftop solar to top 3GW in capacity.

Like Engie, other local and international utilities have been attracted by Brazil’s net-metering programme. Italy’s Enel, for example, has 200 arrays totalling 2.4MW installed but plans to grow 70% a year to reach 9.5MW by 2019.

Celesc’s scheme aims to overcome the lack of financing for rooftop solar PV, one of the biggest barriers to the growth of Brazil’s rooftop programme.

Total investment by Celesc is estimated at R$11.3m, which includes paying for the solar PV equipment, its installation, replacement of light bulbs, a publicity campaign and 12 months of monitoring after installation.

Brazilian power distributors are legally bound to invest 0.2% of their net revenue in power efficiency initiatives. Celesc decided to spend to money to buy and install solar PV panels.

Engie won a tender to contract firms to install the 2.6kW panels in the 1,000 homes throughout the state.  Celesc currently has 328 arrays in the country’s net-metering system.

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