Inverter group SMA warns of lower sales, digital boom; Georgia Power eyes 1.6 GW new solar

Solar power news you need to know.

Pricing pressure dents SMA revenue, profit forecast

Inverter manufacturer SMA posted 2016 sales at 940 million euros ($1.0 billion), down 4% year on year, and predicted lower sales of 830 million-900 million euros in 2017 as intense price pressure continues in the solar market.

EBITDA (gross operating profit) is forecast to drop from over 140 million euros in 2016 to 70 million-90 million euros in 2017, SMA said in its annual results statement January 26.

Price competition and changes to feed in tariffs cut global investment in renewable energy technologies in 2016.

Last October, SMA lowered its 2016 profit forecast citing "the significant increase in price pressure and numerous project delays in the [Europe and Middle East and North Africa (MENA)] markets and North American regions."

In August, SMA said pricing pressure would intensify in 2017 and the company would close manufacturing facilities in Denver, U.S. and Cape Town, South Africa, to lower fixed costs.

SMA expects to see positive effects of product innovations and cost-cutting activities in 2017 earnings and is focused on new digital technologies which are disrupting markets.

“Future energy generation will be decentralized, renewable and digital. This will provide attractive opportunities for specialists in environmental and communication technology," SMA CEO Pierre-Pascal Urbon said in a statement.

"SMA will use digital energy management to create transparency of energy flows across various sectors, such as photovoltaics, heating and e-mobility, and to optimize total energy costs at the local level," Urbon said.

Global solar funding slumps

Solar corporate funding in 2016 slumped by 64.0% year-on-year to $9.1 billion, according to the latest figures published by Mercom Capital group.

Fourth-quarter corporate funding slumped 76.8% on a year ago, to $1.6 billion, it said.

Total clean energy technology investment fell by 18% last year to $287.5 billion, largely driven by falling solar power prices and slower growth in China and Japan, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reported January 12.

Mercom Capital said that while annual venture capital (VC) funding in solar projects rose by 18.2% in 2016 to $1.3 billion, VC funding in Q4 2016 fell 28.2% on a year ago to $329 million.

Source: Mercom Capital

Georgia Power targets 1.6 GW of new solar capacity

Georgia Power, the largest electric subsidiary of Southern Company, is to install 1.6 GW of new solar power projects in 2017-2021, the company said in a statement January 25.

Georgia Power installed more than 2 million solar panels in 2016 to bring installed solar capacity to 846 MW, it said.

The utility is implementing a number of solar support programs, including the Renewable Energy Development Initiative (REDI), approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) in 2016.

"We continue to focus on introducing new products, services and programs that bring renewable energy to our state without putting upward pressure on rates and ensuring 24/7 reliability for customers," said Norrie McKenzie, vice president of renewable development for Georgia Power.

Key solar projects in 2016 included four 30 MW plants at military sites and a range of plant capacities from 4 kW to over 100 MW backed by long-term power purchase agreements with Georgia Power.

The utility operates a diverse generation portfolio including nuclear, coal and natural gas stations, as well as solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

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