Photo: Aleo Solar

An industrial strategy for solar

Christian Westermeier, President of SolarPower Europe


Firstly, I hope that you enjoyed Intersolar in Munich this year. It is always exciting to see new and innovative products and to know that these clean energy technologies will power our homes, schools, hospitals, businesses - our future. It is hugely encouraging to see the success of companies from Europe and all over the world bringing innovation and economic growth to us all. In this context, I was naturally dismayed to hear about the irresponsible decision of the current US administration to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.  In my view, this announcement means that the benefits of embracing new technologies and a truly 21st century energy system are being risked by the US government.  

Secondly, this decision makes less sense when you consider the global solar situation. We recently launched our flagship report, the Global Market Outlook for Solar Power 2017-2021, which shows that solar is booming - with 76.5 GW of newly installed capacity in 2016. SolarPower Europe expects the annual global solar market to pass the 80 GW mark in 2017, a rate of deployment no other energy source has ever seen. The US has been one of the key markets in recent times and the solar sector employs more people in the USA than the fossil fuels and nuclear industry combined. The USA has been benefitting hugely from its swivel to solar power up to now.

Thirdly, while the global solar market is thriving, Europe's new installations have been slow. In 2016, global solar demand increased by 50%, which is in stark contrast to Europe, where demand decreased by over 20%. Moreover, between 2008 and 2014, solar jobs shrank from over 200,000 to less than 120,000 in Europe. This development is unacceptable for a European sector and technology which will be the main pillar of the region's future energy supply. Considering also the negative impact of the 5 years of trade measures on the European solar industry, which have made solar much more costly than necessary for both solar companies and European consumers, it is crystal clear that we need a different strategy to support the entire European solar value chain.

SolarPower Europe is therefore pioneering an industrial competitiveness strategy for solar in Europe. This strategy will support the EU to take the global leadership on the existing and next generation of solar technologies, manufacturing and services. Let's not forget that our continent is home to world leading solar players: European researchers, production equipment suppliers, raw and processing materials companies, inverter manufacturers, operations and maintenance providers, technology providers, and many more.

With our European energy transition in motion our priority must be to see competitive jobs created in the solar sector in Europe. SolarPower Europe is currently working with the European Commission to make this happen. To do so we need a market and one of our main aims is to reach 350 GW of installed solar by 2030, up from a little over 100 GW today. This could support 300,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2030, more than doubling the amount of jobs provided by solar in Europe today.

The European Commission supports this initiative at the highest level, in a recent meeting with Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic he applauded the work we are doing in this area. We will now work to make this strategy operational by the end of the year. I count on your engagement to support this new opportunity into a success for our sector.

Contact SolarPower Europe, if you would like to learn more about our industrial strategy for European solar.