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ETI banner Energy technology initiatives

There are no quick fixes to long-term energy challenges. To find solutions, governments and industry benefit from sharing resources and accelerating results. For this reason the IEA enables independent groups of experts - the Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs1.


A large-scale (10MW) array of photovoltaic panels (YangBaJing, Tibet).*

Integrating small cells in a big way 

Policy context
Photovoltaic (PV) cells directly convert solar energy into electricity. Solar photovoltaic cells are a commercially available and reliable technology with a significant potential for growth in nearly all world regions. There are a wide range of PV cells on the market, and installations can be designed for individual urban or rural residences or large fields for power generation. Policies and measures to support further deployment of solar PV include fiscal and financial incentives; standards and codes for buildings and electricity network interconnections; increasing funding for R&D to further accelerate cost reductions and efficiency gains; and educating and training a skilled workforce.

The aim of the ETI focusing on photovoltaics (PVPS) is to enhance the international collaborative efforts that facilitate the role of photovoltaic solar energy as a cornerstone in the transition to sustainable energy systems. This contributes to the cost reduction of PV power applications; increases awareness of the potential and value of PV power systems; fosters the removal of both technical and non-technical barriers; and enhances technology co-operation. There are currently 24 Contracting Parties, including China, Israel, Malaysia and Mexico, and four Sponsors.

As electricity from PV cell installations continues to increase, it becomes increasingly important to understand – and address – the effects of this variable source on electricity network reliability and stability. This is the underlying rationale for the PVPS project, High Penetration of PV in Electricity Grids. The objectives are to review and document cases of successful high penetration of PV; identify technical barriers and develop technical requirements; and facilitate energy management and system control of electricity grids through greater deployment of PV.

Until now common definitions or scenarios including high-penetration of PV have been lacking. This is largely due to the broad range of PV technologies and the size of the installations. Coupled with varying voltage and system configurations of national or regional electricity networks, much is yet to be defined.

National workshops have been held with utilities, industry, and other stakeholders in China, Europe and the United States, to develop the necessary methods to enable distributed grid-connected PV technologies, in particular, protection requirements for PV inverters, control, safety and their impact on different applications, connection levels and network topologies.

This information will be synthesised into definitions of performance, operating ranges and utility compatibility with a high penetration of PV. The group has investigated the use of tools to forecast and monitor optimum weather conditions and the effect on the networks. The effects of a changing policy framework on the number of new, large-scale projects and the price of electricity are also considered. These efforts have resulted in case studies focusing on energy management using PV, overall power systems and distribution. Fourteen models of PV forecasting have been developed for Europe, Japan and the United States. The final report is designed for use by electricity network planners, specialists for PV systems and inverters, power system simulation engineers, utility engineers concerned with interconnection of distributed energy resources, and equipment manufacturers.

Photo courtesy of the Institute of Electrical Engineering, Chinese Academy of Science.


Current projects

  • Deploying PV services for regional development
  • High penetration of PV in electricity grids
  • Hybrid systems within mini-grids
  • PV services for developing countries
  • PV environmental health & safety activities
  • Large-scale PV power generation systems
  • Performance and reliability of PV systems

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1.Information or material of the IEA Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs (formally organised under the auspices of an Implementing Agreement), including information or material published on this website, does not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or of the IEA’s individual Member countries. The IEA does not make any representation or warranty (express or implied) in respect of such information (including as to its completeness, accuracy or non-infringement) and shall not be held liable for any use of, or reliance on, such information.