Editorial: It's time for a new European Industrial Strategy

By: James Watson, CEO


Following a year of dedicated engagement by the SolarPower Europe team and Board, we have finally been given the green light by the European Commission that a 'Clean Energy Industrial Competitiveness Forum' will be launched under the auspices of Commission Vice-President Sefcovic in 2017. This represents a major achievement for SolarPower Europe, but more importantly represents a real opportunity for an industrial policy to be developed for solar in Europe.

To date there has been little done for the supply side in solar in Europe, with policies such as the trade measures ultimately resulting in harm for many manufacturing segments in the European upstream as well as a major negative impact on downstream companies. The Commission has been very good at putting in place the policies that stimulated demand in Europe - the Renewable Energy Directive for one; and the new Clean Energy Package should build on that for the market development between 2020 and 2030. So now it is right that the European Commission matches its ambition for demand side policies with a framework to develop the most promising sectors in Europe. A key aspect of this new Forum is that it gives us the opportunity to create a new industrial strategy for Europe, not a re-industrialisation strategy. There will be a focus on the clean technologies of today and the future, whereas in the past industrial policy has focused on what to do with ailing industries of centuries gone by. This is also something to celebrate as we will be supporting the creation of jobs that are fit for the 21st century.

We will hold our first taskforce meeting on 9th October in the presence of the European Commission officials responsible for the development of the Forum. This will give our members the opportunity to discuss the issues that matter to them, directly with the person holding the pen for the Commission on the clean energy industrial Forum. This represents a unique opportunity for our members to engage on this new flagship initiative.

While we are very active in getting our vision for the Forum up and running, the Commission have also been busy contacting other renewable energy associations to gain feedback from them on their views on what should be included in the Forum. Clearly, solar is not going to have all the space in the Forum to itself! However, if we work well with our colleagues in other sectors we will be able to develop horizontal, cross-cutting issues, as well as develop specific vertical policies for solar and the segments within our value chain.

Optimism is high for a strong framework to be developed, that will allow the solar sector to more than double employment from the current levels of around 120,000 to more than 300,000 in 2030. This was the target of our Board in our original industrial strategy paper and an objective we believe that should be easily achievable.

This final point reminds me to remind you that our new jobs study will be launched in November in the European Parliament. More information on that will follow in our November newsletter.