Hungary, one of Europe’s gigawatt-scale solar markets, is a hotbed of activity. However, government policy changes and grid restrictions cast a long shadow over the growing demand for solar energy. pv magazine recently spoke with Ádám Szolnok, President of the Hungarian Photovoltaic Industry Association (MANAP), about the latest market developments.
Szolnok: According to the latest figures from the Hungarian transmission system operator, we were already at more than 4.5 GW of cumulative installed solar capacity at the end of the first quarter of this year.
In the under 50 kW rooftop segment, we had two consecutive record years with around 400 MW installed. In 2021, the number of installations was high because there was a fear of the end of the very cheap net metering system. Last year our centrally regulated electricity prices for households and small businesses, which were the lowest in Europe, doubled due to the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, which meant everyone wanted solar.
In the over 50 kW market segment, where electric-scale solar power plants make up the lion’s share, the installation figures are also strong. There is about 5 GW of allocated capacity for electric-scale solar power to be built in the next four to five years, but these are old capacities, which means that the application came three to four years ago.
Network congestion makes it difficult to introduce large-scale solar energy in Hungary. How serious is this threat?
In the last two years, no electricity scale project was able to ensure grid connection. However, about 3 GW of the projects that applied last year received a response from the grid operator in mid-May that they would not be connected until 2028. It took 12 months for these large solar projects to come forward.
Last year, the rooftop electricity market was hit by a change in policy. What do we see in this segment today?
In October, the Hungarian government introduced a regulation for solar installations of less than 50 kW, according to which new systems can no longer be fed into the grid. This led to a complete collapse in sales of new systems. This market segment is now seeing some activity, albeit on a decline.
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In August, we are waiting for a decision on the possible lifting of this supply ban, which was initially introduced as a preventive measure when the network became saturated. New net billing, which we call gross metering, is in the works, but the rules have not yet been defined.
Will the sun find a way to succeed despite these challenges?
Absolutely. In the market segment below 50 kW, I can imagine that the installation numbers will be slightly lower this year or even at the same level, because just days before the feed ban came into effect, there were about 100,000 new applications and they are still being delivered. At the scale of electricity, when one of these 5 GW of distributed capacity is built each year, it means that even 2023 will be a record year with a total capacity of more than 1 GW.