At its biannual Policy Conference, EREC a European Union (EU) level body comprising of decision makers, industry representatives and experts made the call for binding renewable energy targets for the EU member states of 45 percent. Of this, photovoltaics is forecast to become a major component of the energy generation mix – together with wind – generating 50 percent of the energy mix by 2030.
In interview with pv magazine, ERECs Deputy Secretary General Josche Muth said that in both the conservative and more ambitious scenarios forecast in its recent report, supporting the 45 percent binding renewable targets, photovoltaic electricity will see very rapid growth. "In both cases, what we will see is a further steep increase of photovoltaics, in particular after 2015 and a further steep increase after 2020 going towards 2030."
Falling costs drive growth
Falling costs, through economies of scale and technological advances, is seen by EREC as the big driver of photovoltaic growth. Comparing it to the dramatic cost decreases to technologies such as mobile phones, Muth said that the challenge will be for European Governments to adapt their support and incentive regimes to keep pace with falling photovoltaic costs. "It will be a question of how member states and politics can adapt to that, how can we adjust support mechanisms towards that development," said Muth.
Government policy stability is key
To facilitate this sustainable and ongoing growth in the solar sector, Muth also pointed out that stability of these governmental support schemes is vital. Drawing on the successes in various European members states, in the Nordic regions and Germany, Muth says regime stability is key. "You need stable policy framework conditions, the dedication, incentives and support schemes and not [have them] changed or retroactively changed." Muth went onto to add, "we are in a time of tight public budgets, so we need to trigger private investments, and you need stable framework conditions."
Recent revisions in feed-in tariff schemes (FIT) in both Italy and the United Kingdom have cause major disruptions in the global photovoltaic industry of late, highlighting the disruptive effects public policy instability can have on sustainable renewable energy growth. There have been accusations directed towards the British government to this effect, by the solar industry there.
However in a statement to pv magazine yesterday (Monday), the Department of Energy and Climate Change countered that its FIT reviews will focus on larger installations and not smaller ones, therefore only affecting one part of the photovoltaic market there. "We support sustained growth in the solar industry and have proposed measures for consultation that will protect the FITs scheme for homes, small businesses and communities. Solar PV schemes under 50 kilowatts are unaffected by the fast-track review," said the department’s spokesperson.
Formal moves to create binding European goals
The 45 percent renewable target by 2030 seems an impressive and ambitious goal, but EREC believes not only is it feasible and realistic, but that formal moves are already underway at the European Commission and European Parliament level to make such a goal a reality. The leading committees of the European Parliament in the energy and climate emissions field have recently voted in favor of increasing greenhouse gas reduction targets and creating a new renewable energy target beyond 2020.
On the European Commission level, the European Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger has supported the need for ongoing renewable energy targets and Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard has made statements regarding the need for clear 2030 targets in order to facilitate future developments in the sector. Muth concluded, "both Commissioners have said that there is a need to discuss [these] targets, [EREC wants to see that] we will have an increase of renewables alongside energy savings, and that realistic target outlined by us it to go beyond 45 percent or 45 percent at least."
Single energy market
One final factor is seen as crucial for ERECs ambitious goals for Europes renewable energy future has particular relevance to the ground-mounted larger scale photovoltaic power plant segment: this being moves towards a European wide energy market. At present, there are many obstacles to such a market, however ERECs Muth said that at the executive level, Europe is committed to overcoming them.
"While small and medium sized [photovoltaic] ventures still make up a large part of the market," said Muth, "if we look at large cities, say Munich, within the area of the city it might be difficult to produce all of the electricity that the city demands. So you need the areas around the city, which means that you need to have larger ground-based photovoltaic production."
This level of production is in-turn aided by larger markets, expanded Muth. "If we are moving towards a European wide electricity market, which is the aim of the European Council and Heads of State by 2015, means that we are able to trade this electricity, not virtually but physically. This means you can explore your larger ground potential and do so in a centralized way."