From sun to roof to grid: distributed PV in energy sector strategies

Rapid growth of distributed photovoltaics (DPV) has upended the paradigm of one-way power from the grid. Solar electricity systems located close to consumers empower them to self-supply and feed into the grid. For utilities, the impacts—positive or negative—depend on how DPV is deployed. With good policies, DPV can contribute to reliable grid operation and a financially sound power sector. This report catalogs nine ways that DPV systems can, with other distributed resources, help people in low- and middle-income countries to: reduce electricity bills; provide least-cost backup (e.g., compared to diesel generators) for consumers facing grid outages; supply least-cost generation to the grid, especially where land is constrained; defer certain transmission and distribution upgrades; ‘bootstrap’ underperforming utilities by improving service and increasing bills collections for consumers in a microgrid; provide ancillary grid services; support low-income communities with subscriptions or connections to medium-large DPV; reduce utility financial losses by supplying consumers in arrears; and/or meet urgent needs following a disaster with a preassembled ‘box’ of PV and batteries. Energy sector decision makers can assess which among these use cases make sense in their local context to inform strategy and program design.