Competition and cost reduction highlighted at Forum Solarpraxis

Karl Heinz Remmers, CEO of Solarpraxis, officially launched the proceedings by stating that photovoltaics (PV) has experienced a boom, the like of which has not previously been seen, and which affects everyone. He went on to say that this growth, although positive, presented threats as well as opportunities.

The purpose of the forum, he explained, was to look at how the PV industry should progress, and to discuss whether the right conditions exist to support further positive growth.

Germany’s strategy

Katherina Reiche, Parliamentary Secretary of State at the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, took to the floor to discuss the Federal Government’s energy strategy and its impact on the solar industry.

Finding both a long-term concept and long-term financing were key points, she said. Consequently, it is vital that Germany’s renewable energy strategy is developed: "tapping the potential for cost cutting" should be a principal focus, as should keeping incentives attractive.

She added that installed PV capacity this year had "exceeded all forecasts". This, she said, has had a positive effect on electricity generation and has helped to produce a number of high quality jobs and investment opportunities, etc, which "we can all profit from".

Indeed, she said that since 2004, employment figures in renewable energy industries has doubled, with 340,000 people employed in Germany. Of this, 31,000 work in either solar thermal or PV, which is a "considerable number".

Cost reduction

In terms of making amendments to Germany’s existing Renewable Energy Act – expected to be published mid next year – she said the reduction of costs is central. She added that a draft of the renewable energy amendments will be published in plenty of time so as to invite discussion and to assess the key points.

The main aims of the act, she explained, are to strengthen the market and grid. Incentive schemes must also be adapted to become demand-based. As such, the focal points of the act are: developing renewable energy sources, efficiency, storage, integration, and the interplay between technologies.

While cost cutting is essential, she added that it was still important to continue to invest in research and development. This point was echoed by Günther Cramer, president of the German Solar Industry Association, who said that the German industry must undertake its own R&D projects, which will help to improve competitiveness.

Integration

The integration of all renewable energies was emphasized. In line with what Professor Vassilios G. Agelidis, director of the University New South Wales’ Center for Energy Research and Policy Analysis told pv magazine back in August, Reiche said it was important to have an integrated package in place, which combines such sources as wind, solar and hydro power. This will help to effectively develop the renewable energy industry. "They should stay close to one another," she stated, "instead of playing against one another." "Integrate" and "solidarity" were the keywords.

Competition

Furthermore, Reiche stated that the competition was "not asleep", and that countries like China, were not merely focused on domestic development, but were also "looking for international opportunities". Therefore, Germany must keep its finger on the PV pulse and keep investing in its home market.

Roadmap

Cramer then briefed delegates on the German Association’s roadmap for PV development, which was approved yesterday.

He said that it was important that both politics and the sector supported PV development: the Renewable Energy Sources Act is a "good instrument" to enable positive progress. However, a problem lies in the fact that the act was not designed with value creation in mind. This, he says, is not helpful in terms of international competition, and that an international strategy is needed.

He then went on to outline a number of PV goals that Germany should be working towards if it wants to stay competitive. For instance, system prices "must" be reduced by over 50 percent by 2020. "There are good chances of this happening," said Cramer. He said he expects to see prices between €1.15 and €1.32 in 2020, which is half of today’s figures.

NAPs

In terms of Germany’s National Action Plan, Cramer said that this year Germany will see a newly installed capacity of slightly less than eight gigawatts (GWs). "Demand in the fourth quarter will decrease and will not bring any surprise or peaks," he said. Next year, however, will "open up the corridor". He added that it would be positive to see between five and six GWs of new capacity installed in 2011. And, if Germany wants to reach its target of 70 GWs of installed PV capacity by 2020, he said that between five and six GWs will need to be installed year on year.

While it is clear there is a lot to be discussed in terms of moving the industry forward, it is positive to see so many professionals gathering together from across the world, in order to seek solutions to such problems as staying competitive and building a sustainable industry.

Look out for more Forum Solarpraxis news later on.