What's on the ETIP PV's agenda for 2024?
Solar PV is the fastest-growing energy source globally, and is pivotal for Europe's energy transition. Advancing solar PV research and innovation will be important for addressing current challenges, such as bringing down the cost of electricity, making panels reliable and sustainable, and delivering new energy services via PV.
We sat down with European Technology and Innovation Platform for Photovoltaics (ETIP PV) Chair, Rutger Schlatmann, Head of the Solar Energy division at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB), and Professor at HTW Berlin; ETIP PV Vice-Chair, David Moser, and Head of the Photovoltaic Energy System Research group, at the Institute for Renewable Energy (Eurac Research); and ETIP PV Vice-Chair, Dr. Jutta Trube, Division Manager of VDMA Sector Group Photovoltaic Equipment.
ETIP PV is the European solar PV sector’s research representation to the European Commission. The focus of ETIP PV’s activities is on the opportunities and challenges facing the European solar PV sector. They make recommendations with a view to improving the competitiveness of the European solar PV industry. ETIP PV gathers more than 200 experts covering the entire solar PV value chain.
The ETIP PV Chair and Vice-Chairs, discussed the platform’s priorities for 2024, what’s next on the agenda, the main opportunities and challenges for EU solar reserach and innovation, and much more!
One of the key objectives of ETIP-PV is to provide a short, medium, and long-term vision, for the solar PV sector. In particular, ETIP-PV identified targets and KPIs for 2030 in the Strategic and Research Innovation Agenda (SRIA), for PV, together with a broad pool of experts; In 2024, the document will be updated. Other priorities for 2024 are related to supporting the manufacturing industry with fact-based analysis, to stress the importance of reshoring a large part of the value chain of solar PV manufacturing in Europe, and closely following the process of creating of a co-programmed partnership for solar PV in Europe.
ETIP PV has identified key priorities through the activities of the working groups which include: levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) and competitiveness, integrated PV, digital solar PV systems and grids, solar PV industry, reliability and circularity, and social PV. One of the key priorities has been a fact-based analysis to support PV manufacturing in Europe.
Recently, there have been numerous very exciting developments with EU research and innovation at the forefront, both at the cell/module, as well as application levels. Certainly, the opportunities opened by perovskite are very promising, but also developments in integrated PV (e.g. Agri-PV, Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)) show the huge value creation, as well as climate change mitigation potential ahead of us.
EU solar research and innovation is pushing the sector in terms of efficiency and reliability enhancements. The topic of sustainability is gaining momentum as this is becoming more and more important with solar PV becoming mainstream. Sustainability can also represent a competitive advantage for EU companies if and when sustainability non-pricing criteria will be included in tenders or requirements in procurement for solar PV projects. The reshoring of solar PV manufacturing in EU is also a very important opportunity for the research and innovation sector to accelerate the industrialisation of developed technology concepts. At the same time, the availability of large-scale industrial production line opens up new opportunities in incremental research and innovation. This can have an important impact on efficiency enhancements, based on the optimisation of manufacturing processes
Photo: © Meyer Burger
EU solar research and innovation is benefitting from support through various instruments at the EU level (with Horizon Europe being the most important one) and Member State level. However, the level of support should be increased, with solar PV becoming the key actor in the energy transition. Calls for funding are typically overbooked, and several worthy ideas are not funded due to the high level of competition for funding. The presence of industry in Europe along the whole value chain is of fundamental importance for a thriving EU research and innovation, to make sure that concepts reach market maturity and do not fall into the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) valley of death. Another challenge is represented by the fact that some research and innovation activities are considered at too high a TRL, and are therefore not supported by public funding. We would like to stress that incremental innovation is also very important, as it can positively influence reliability, sustainability, and efficiency enhancements.
Strengthening the solar PV supply chain in Europe - for energy independence and industrial value creation; The Green Deal Industrial Plan is intended to set a framework for this soon.
The European Solar PV Industry Alliance, was initiated by the EU Commission last year, to accelerate the deployment of solar PV in the EU. The annual production capacity for solar PV in Europe is to be increased to 30 GW by 2025 to free the ramp-up the sector from supply chain risks, and support European decarbonisation targets. Current developments are worrying, the trend is pointing in the other direction; currently, most solar PV modules are imported from Asia, there are critical gaps in the PV supply chain for the PV system in Europe, and the few remaining PV manufacturing companies are under severe pressure.
The US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is massively subsidising domestic technology manufacturing. Chinese manufacturers are taking a low-price approach in line with the government's strategy to occupy key technologies in world markets. This constellation jeopardises the prospect of a rapid reconstruction, and upscaling of the entire European solar PV industry, which is a top political priority. Compensating for subsidies from third countries in the short term, and achieving the European goals of resilient supply chains, are suitable minimum requirements for market participation in Europe.
Here, for example, IT security and data sovereignty could be applied; EU Eco-design requirements are also conceivable to increase sustainability requirements. In addition, qualitative criteria or bonuses can be applied to produce electricity, which give value to European value creation and resilience.
With the Green Deal Industrial Plan and the Net-Zero Industry Act, the EU reinvigorating the growth of the solar industry.
Of course, any new manufacturing initiatives in EU could directly benefit from a very high level and very broad portfolio of research and innovation support and development opportunities that the European solar PV ecosystem can offer. Still, we should recognise that the strength of European research and innnovation alone will not be enough to reshore solar PV manufacturing to Europe.
With its solar strategy and subsequent measures, the EU has recognised solar PV as one of the key technologies for the energy system of the future, which is ready to deliver right now, but hardly without any industrial home base in Europe. The EU and all Member States should now push forward, and do everything possible to reshore this crucial technology. The research and innovation part of the sector, that ETIP PV represents in its full industrial and academic width, is ready to support this development by any means.