Level playing field key to Europe’s PV industry

The High-Level Group behind the report looked at six KETs that included photonics, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing systems, that are argued to be of high relevance to the photovoltaic industry in Europe. The report’s authors warned that the continent will lose competitiveness unless radical steps to support research and development and implementation of technologies in these industry areas.

President of SEMI Europe’s photovoltaic group Heinz Kundert told pv magazine that if the KETs report’s outcomes were to be achieved, addressing incentive schemes is vital. He argued that present photovoltaic incentive schemes – such as feed-in tariffs – are seeing rewards flowing back to Asian manufacturers. He argued instead for incentives directly for European manufacturing, as it is in countries like China.

"The incentive issue is key, that there is the same level playing field [between European and Asian manufacturers. That is] more important than feed-in tariffs," said Kundert.

Another factor which the KETs report implicitly addresses was the need for a uniformity of purpose amongst these industry segments. While China has clear national industrial policies, the European landscape is much more varied and less coherent.

"[In Europe] it’s totally up to the industry to talk to each other, to form a collective identity and collective measures," said Kundert. He elaborated to pv magazine that in the KETs industry groups, that as high levels of investment is required, not only in research and development but also in implementation and commercialization, government support and investment is needed.

"When the costs of industry is so high […] one company can’t do it any more. So you need public private partnerships in creating the basis for such technologies and competitiveness. And here industry needs structural leadership to tackle all these issues," said Kundert.

Despite the challenges, SEMI’s Kundert does remain hopeful that the KETs report has the backing and clout to gain support from European policy makers. Highlighting that top academic, governmental and industry figures contributed to the report, Kundert told pv magazine that as the design was right and results could very well follow. "I’m very confident, that we not only address research and development but also address manufacturing."

The European Commission will report back on the policy recommendations at the beginning of 2012.