L R AS Published on Saturday 17 February 2024 - n° 476 - Categories:Europe

Photovoltaics in Europe: optimism or reality?

The information available on the state of the photovoltaic industry in Europe over the last six months has not been good. However, according to Finlay Colville, "the situation today is far from bleak for companies and research institutes in Europe.

New opportunities have emerged recently that should enable many photovoltaic companies in Europe to forge differentiated business models as the industry moves towards annual terawatt production levels."

European photovoltaic production was decimated more than a decade ago. This is not a new phenomenon resulting from the oversupply of Chinese modules in Europe over the last 12 months. Twenty years ago, demand was heavily subsidised by incentives. China entered the European market at a time when various incentives were being reduced or abolished altogether.

Over the last decade, the manufacture of photovoltaic panels in Europe has been virtually non-existent. Many companies that used to manufacture (or distribute) panels in Europe have established strategic partnerships with panel producers in China.

The companies that actually manufactured panels in Europe could almost be counted on one hand. Manufacturing wafers and cells was no longer a significant proposition.

In recent years, the most significant capacity building - on a wider European scale - has taken place in Turkey, where agreements between original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Chinese panel suppliers (active in Europe and the USA) have created significant opportunities.

Technological developments in the sector have also driven ongoing investment in capacity by Meyer Burger and 3Sun (Enel). For these companies, the sales opportunity comes from the availability of the right product (in each case, the manufacture of heterojunction cells and panels) for the right end market (the most important US market). For these manufacturers, growing demand could come from non-Chinese products. In addition, suppliers of photovoltaic production equipment and materials with facilities in Europe are seeing an increase in order activity.

India is perhaps the country offering the most short-term opportunities for European equipment manufacturers. This is due to the new wave of cell production line additions. Over the past decade, most capital expenditure outside India has been for panel assembly plants, with almost all orders going to Chinese suppliers. Chinese suppliers of turnkey lines (and a huge share to a single Chinese company). India is now looking to diversify its equipment purchases for cell capacity development, and Indian PV companies retain a very pro-European/Pro-German aspect to cell equipment and technology leadership.

The situation for cell capacity additions in the US is very similar to that in India, but with a time lag and some additional political issues.

Business in India and the United States is now essential for photovoltaic equipment suppliers in Europe. We can only hope that the investment landscape in Europe will have changed in a few years' time to allow Europe to benefit from the successes achieved in diversifying cell and panel capacity elsewhere.

Research institutes

Many in Europe remain at the forefront of research and development and technology transfer. As do suppliers of photovoltaic equipment,

In total :

The media have focused on the photovoltaic supply chain, but it is the global stage that offers the best opportunities for European-based photovoltaic companies over the next few years. They have differentiated themselves through technology and the traceability of components, which are now at the top of the list of purchasing preferences for panels outside China.


PV Tech of 12 February 2023

Editor's note The purpose of this article is to encourage participants to attend a conference on 12 and 13 March. Does the optimistic nature of the article stem from the need to attract listeners? Or does it reflect the author's deep-seated opinion?

The negative opinion comes mainly from European manufacturers who are trying to hold out despite the flooding of commercial circuits with panels sold at low prices. That's the first thing we hear.

It would be a good thing if European research institutes were renowned, but as long as there are no industrial outlets for research work, what use are they?

The fact that European equipment manufacturers have retained their reputation and prestige is encouraging at a time when new companies from India and the United States are launching into the production of components for the industry. But these equipment manufacturers are supplying foreign companies, not European ones, which are struggling to survive and don't really have the means to renew their machines...

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