SPI: Exciting yet challenging times

19. October 2011 | Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends, Top News | By:  Shamsiah Ali-Oettinger

The Solar Power International, SPI for short, is currently taking place at the Dallas Convention Center in Texas. Today is the third day of the expo and already over 21,000 professionals from more than 125 countries have attended.

SPI 2011 in Dallas highlighted the challenges the industry suppliers are currently facing. Image: Flickr/Ken Lund

Rhone Resch, president and CEO, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Julia Hamm, president and CEO of Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) opened the show on the first day with a brief introduction of the industry’s current standing in the U.S.

Hamm highlighted that the SPI has reached a record 1,200 exhibitors this year, but added that although times are exciting for the solar industry, they are also challenging. Echoing Hamm, Jefferies International Limited stated in its report from day one that the industry remains challenged. However, it says there are signs of rationalization.

Jefferies analysis

The challenges, as Jefferies highlights, are macro issues, uncertain government support and high inventories. Today, Jefferies will host a Solar Symposium with presentations from 19 industry leaders, in order to discuss the direction photovoltaics will have to take in the future. The research company believes that interesting opportunities are in store for the next six months.

The possibility of a European bailout continues to cast a shadow over the photovoltaic market, as the mood at the SPI apparently reflected. Jefferies reported that developers are saying they are having a difficult time getting financing, particularly in Europe. However, with the current trend of companies moving eastwards, especially into China and Southeast Asia, it does not look all that bad. Japan’s 2012 feed-in tariffs are also seen as a possible contributor to increase demands next year, by seven percent in 2012 and 12 percent in 2013, according to the analysts.

pv magazine has been reporting on the high inventories piling up in last months, and this is voiced by the SPI visitors and exhibitors as well. However, the high inventories are expected to decrease in the next few quarters, bringing good news to those with full warehouses. Jefferies stated, "We hear that Q3 inventory remains high as many OEMs continued to produce at 100 percent utilization, while distributors delayed purchases for lower pricing. Now that companies are lowering production, these inventory levels are expected to decrease."

The past months have also seen a number of announcements about downsizing, lowering of revenues and closures. What Jefferies sees from the SPI thus far is the possibility for more merger and acquisition activities to occur over the next six months. Partnerships and takeovers are expected over this crucial time period.

No magic, but it's ok

The SPI programs and conferences have been carefully crafted to answer the most important questions surrounding solar power today. More general sessions have also been added to provide the solar industry with insights into good management and successful leading.

Resch opened the session with a 'Leadership Perspective' conference, which was followed by a special talk on championship and leadership. Many were looking forward to hearing the success story and bringing the same ideals to become a champion and leader in the photovoltaics sector from the basketball legend Magic Johnson. Alas, the crowd had to be happy hearing from another NBA star David Robinson instead who stepped in last minute to lead the seminar.


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