PV module prices have dropped 70% since 2008, when the financial crisis sent demand tumbling, with Chinese multicrystalline silicon module prices currently as low as $1.49 per watt, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance's (BNEF) Solar Spot Survey. In part, this was an example of "the Bubble giveth, and the Bubble taketh away." For the three to four years ending in 2008, the long-term downtrend of PV prices, which had been driven by the learning curve and imporving technology, stalled due to strong demand. Then, when the financial crisis suddenly removed the availability of cheap financing, demand vanished, and prices plummeted.
Plenty of Money
Today, it's clear that financing is back. I recently attended the 8th Annual Renewable Energy Finance Forum-Wall Street (REFF), co-hosted by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and Euromoney Energy Events. At REFF, the room was packed with financiers ready to fund PV projects with credible developers and quality off-takers, such as utility Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), solar and wind developers, and attorneys ready to draw up deals between them. Notably absent among attendees were any utilities or other large power buyers.
I find the absence of power buyers telling. Yes, there are utilities, businesses, and institutions signing PPAs with renewable energy developers, but it's a sign of the end-customer's market power that they don't need to come to networking events like REFF Wall St to get the word out. Brian Matthay, VP Environmental Finance at Wells Fargo sees the distributed solar PV market as limited not by the supply of panels or finance, but by the lack of good deals. For Wells Fargo, a good deal requires a quality developer, with experience and a strong balance sheet.
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