Contributed By: Meghan McIntyre, Energy Analyst at Zeigo Power
Meghan is an experienced energy analyst with an MSc in Sustainable Resources from UCL. Zeigo Power, formerly known as Zeigo was acquired by Schneider Electric in January of 2022.
In the last decade, power purchase agreements (PPAs) have transitioned from a niche solution for only the largest energy offtakers, to a viable option for corporate energy buyers looking to hedge against market fluctuations and meet their decarbonization targets. Wind and solar are the two dominant technologies being contracted for under PPAs, but which technology is best for corporate buyers?
As seen in the graph below, the European PPA market had been dominated by wind technologies through 2020. The prevalence of wind technology is due to the early maturity of Nordic markets, where wind power has a significant competitive advantage and the size of wind projects available matched the large volumes corporates were demanding. Even today, the early advancement of wind power is reflected in the number of PPAs signed per year; in 2022, wind power PPAs accounted for 30 deals compared to 14 for solar power. However, as PPAs have become a more common procurement method for corporates and markets with abundant solar resources have matured, solar PV now accounts for a similar volume of PPA contracts in Europe. Although technology share between wind and solar has become more equal across Europe, pricing trends and individual market dynamics mean no one technology is the most competitive in all.
*The above chart depicts the most active markets on the Zeigo Power platform and percentage share of each technology in 2022.
The Spanish market is a recognized leader of PPAs in Europe. Governmental support for PPAs has continued following a volatile 2022, as officials have supported EU-wide market reform to increase electricity price stability through encouraging adoption of long-term power contracts, such as PPAs.
The region’s abundance of solar natural resources, favorable legislative environment, and the solar industry’s resilience to increasing LCOE makes solar PV the most demanded technology by corporate energy buyers in the region. As a result, prices offered on the Zeigo Power platform for solar PV have been the most attractive.
Although average PPA prices in Spain saw a significant increase from the 2021 average of 35.03EUR/MWh to an average of 55.97EUR/MWh in 2022, they remain highly competitive against power price forecasts. This continued competitiveness is demonstrated by early 2023 PPA market action, with two solar PPAs amounting to 101GWh of additional renewable energy being signed in February, indicating that the market will continue to lead solar PPA activity this year.
In contrast with Spain, the United Kingdom leads with onshore wind and was the only region where average onshore wind prices were lower than solar PV in 2022. However, although onshore wind sites will remain in demand, solar technology is growing in the UK and is becoming an accessible solution for corporate buyers. In fact, although solar PV sites have tended to see higher PPA prices, the relative resilience of solar PV against supply chain challenges has narrowed this gap. Despite increasing LCOE for wind projects, the technology’s competitive position has helped it remain a strong contender for buyers looking to sign a PPA. As a result, both wind and solar technologies are growing in the UK.
The UK government has recently announced increased commitment to the renewable transition by increasing the frequency and volume of its Contracts-for-Difference schemes, however, most of this scheme has been allocated to offshore wind projects. PPAs will become a key pillar to decarbonize the UK grid, as developers seek alternative financing options for solar and onshore wind projects.
The French PPA market is relatively nascent with a lower volume of PPAs signed compared to other large European economies. Despite this, the French government has shown support for EU reforms to encourage greater use of power contracts, such as PPAs, to stabilize power markets. As a result of this support, demand for PPAs is growing in the region. Like Spain, solar PV is more competitively priced than onshore wind offers received on the Zeigo Power platform, making it the preferred technology of price-conscious buyers.
Even with the dominance of solar pricing, the French government has a target to bring 8.75GW of offshore wind and 35GW of onshore wind online by 2028. In response, the country’s Contracts-for-Difference (CfD) scheme has been highly competitive for wind projects, leaving significant opportunity for PPAs to provide financing for projects that are unsuccessful in CfD rounds. As sign-off and construction of more onshore wind projects accelerates, it is likely wind PPA prices will grow more competitive in line with solar PV prices in the long-term, particularly for energy buyers that prioritize additionality. For buyers looking to sign a PPA in the near-term, solar PV will present the most competitive prices.
Germany has become a highly active market, signing the 3rd highest volume under PPAs in 2022 after historically lagging compared to other regions. Despite its impressive adoption rate during a year of extreme volatility, Germany continues to have the highest onshore wind prices on Zeigo Power and the greatest price difference between wind and solar averages. Solar is more price competitive than wind in Germany, with 7.19GW of PV added to the grid in 2022. The country plans to triple this annual installation rate, which means the solar PPA market is likely to continue to compete against long-term price forecasts as developers seek financing.
Is One Technology the Winner?
Overall, solar PV is emerging as the dominant technology throughout Europe to support the transition to renewable energy and will likely be the most cost competitive for buyers looking to sign a PPA in the short-term. This is driven not only by a mix of markets benefiting from abundant natural resources and hospitable legal environment for solar deals, but also because supply chain and cost dynamics have increased the cost of wind projects. However, even with recent increases, onshore wind has an established presence in certain markets, particularly the UK, and will remain a priority in plans to reach climate targets.
When deciding on a PPA for wind or solar technology, buyers should consider whether the PPA is to be physically delivered or a virtual structure. The difference between the annual shape of generation from a wind or solar asset and the PPA offtakers profile could outweigh the difference between the price in technologies due to the balancing and shaping costs present in physical PPA structures. In addition to comparing prices of wind or solar technology types, site characteristics such as additionality and generation patterns should be considered to meet a business’s requirements most closely through a PPA.