Editorial: Knock Knock - Solar sector innovation and cost reduction are bringing new business opportunities knocking on Europe's door

By: Bruce Douglas, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy CEO


As solar continues to grow in Europe, the pool of business opportunities for European industry also continues to grow exponentially. With more solar in the energy system, we will transform the way Europeans produce and consume energy, unlocking innovation and investment. From new technologies, to sector-coupling, to new markets - solar's potential to boost European industry is overflowing. This year at the SolarPower Summit on 14-15 March, industry leaders and policy makers will join together to discuss all of these new business opportunities and how to open the doors to the enormous untapped potential that solar now has to offer in Europe.

The solar sector in Europe is continually innovating every day, with cheaper and more efficient technologies, new business models and cost-effective procedures helping to push the price of solar down dramatically. One of the major trends emerging has been solar-plus-storage solutions. Solar and storage are the perfect pair, as together they allow for clean energy to be more accessible, flexible, and reliable in the energy system, therefore making market integration of solar a much simpler process. This becomes even more significant when adding digitalisation into the mix. The digitalisation of energy increases the efficiency of processes such as P2P energy trading and demand response with blockchain technology and smart meters, which means that the solar power stored in batteries can be used to its full potential. Digitalisation is also transforming the O&M sector and, combined with O&M Best Practices, will help to realise standardisation of this sector in Europe which will facilitate more solar deployment overall.

Together, these technologies are helping to drive down the price of solar, making it one of the most cost-effective energy sources available. This will be key to realising a consumer-driven energy transition in Europe, as these cost-effective technologies are what citizens need to transform themselves from simply energy consumers, to empowered energy prosumers. With an increase in energy prosumers, countless new business opportunities emerge. From new technology innovations to fulfill energy prosumers needs, to utilities offering solar-plus-storage solutions, to creating local jobs - whoever jumps on these opportunities first will be at the frontlines of the new consumer-driven energy system.

This is also powering another new trend in Europe's energy system - sector-coupling. These new technologies, coupled with the increased use of electricity in the transport and building sectors, can facilitate solar system integration. We will soon be witnessing a whole new paradigm in the electricity sector, with solar leading the way towards a decentralised energy system that will decarbonise Europe from the bottom-up. With more solar-powered electric vehicles and building-integrated PV plugging into the EU's energy system, solar can help reduce peaks and maximise local use of clean energy while helping address environmental concerns such as air pollution. This offers unheard of opportunities for European businesses in solar, energy, transport, and construction sectors to expand beyond their typical value chain and into exciting unchartered territory to create a symbiotic low-carbon economy.

Due to these innovations, a new energy market is emerging which embraces the solar revolution. We are now witnessing the era of subsidy-free solar, with Europe's first ever subsidy-free solar farm opening in 2017, and this certainly won't be the last as production, installation, and operation & maintenance costs continue to drop. The newfound affordability of solar is perhaps best exemplified by the upsurge of corporate renewable energy sourcing with Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). Some of the top corporations globally including Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and IKEA are now turning to PPAs to power their business simply because it is better for their bottom line. More solar is now being deployed in new and exciting ways thanks to the energy market opening new paths for solar to be integrated into the European power system.

All of these opportunities also extend beyond Europe's borders into emerging solar markets. As Europe is a seasoned veteran in the solar industry, it can help boost other markets which are just beginning to embrace the solar revolution. From project financing and development, to giving access to innovative technologies, to offering advice on regulatory frameworks fit for solar - Europe's expertise will be essential to help put young solar markets on the right track to a clean energy future. That is why SolarPower Europe is launching an Emerging Markets Task Force to stake out business opportunities that can connect European and emerging solar players.  SolarPower Europe has already started this, working with the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme to engage entrepreneurs on both the European and African side to catalyse the solar industry in Africa, a region which holds great potential to harness the power of the sun.

It is clear that solar is, quite literally, a golden opportunity to boost European industry. New technologies are facilitating new business models and markets that are unprecedented and will be the future of Europe's energy system. To learn more about all these trends and opportunities, join us and over 300 other industry leaders at the SolarPower Summit 14-15 March in Brussels. This leading event will cover all of these opportunities and more while giving unique networking opportunities. There is only a limited number of tickets left to this innovative event, get yours now and open the door to the future of solar!

Find more information and register here.