Forum Solarpraxis off to positive start

The 14th Forum Solarpraxis got off to a positive start in downtown Berlin on Thursday as Solarpraxis CEO Karl-Heinz Remmers welcomed guests with an address on the great benefits the sinking costs of solar had brought, including new business opportunities in booming international markets.

Remmers also called on Germany’s political establishment and solar sector not give up on Germany and Europe as a technology, production and manufacturing hub for PV. He pointed to China as an example, saying Germany and Europe could benefit from a similar political will to develop the solar sector as a strategic industry.

Despite the fact that Germany has lost its leading share in the global installation market, which has since shrunk to around 10%, Remmers said there was nevertheless a growing opportunity as solar spread globally. It was, he added, an important step for greater sustainable development worldwide that is providing countless business opportunities for German solar companies that can benefit internationally from know-how and German branding.

Remmers also called on attendees and on Germany’s political leaders to see the country’s energy transition as a decade-long challenge rather than a short-term solution. He called on the industry and other market stakeholders to help Germany remain at the forefront of the energy transition and pushed for greater collaboration among invested parties.

"Many things won’t be the way they are now in 2050 so lets take the challenge of this vision together."

Holger Krawinkel of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV), echoed Remmer’s comments, saying it the growing global solar market offered great opportunities due to continuing reduction in PV costs. Falling prices are making solar and renewables increasingly competitive in Germany and Europe and offered great benefits for the billions of people worldwide who do not yet have access to electricity, he said.

Krawinkel added that other energy sources have to adapt to the growing share of solar and renewables rather than the other way around. The German industry would not need to worry about the country’s aging coal-firing plants as they would soon be mothballed due to economic reasons, he added.

At the World PV Outlook panel discussion, Henning Wicht of IHS Research stressed the growing potential of solar in Germany’s end-consumer market and expanding international markets. He forecast for 2014 a global market growth of up to 45 GW.

Wicht underscored the huge potential for solar in 180 countries worldwide that do not yet have a significant PV infrastructure (adding that currently only about 20 countries have developed PV infrastructure). Wicht added that the learning curve of PV was dropping as production increased, pointing out the potential for further cost reduction due to economies of scale. Looking forward, Wicht predicted that by 2020, module costs would drop to $0.30 per watt and module prices to $0.40 per watt.

Reinhold Buttgereit of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) noted the need for expanding new global manufacturing capacity to fulfill growing demand around the world.

Buttgereit and Wicht both emphasized the need for a level playing field for solar and renewables, pointing out that fossil fuels and nuclear were still receiving significantly more in the way of subsidies than solar and other renewables.

Approximately 600 visitors from Germany and abroad are attending the annual industry event to network and discuss the latest developments in the European and global PV markets.

Among them was Stephan Raithel of Berlin-based Semi, who has attended the forum for the past five years. In addition to networking opportunities, Raithel said he was eager to see greater involvement in solar by utility companies, adding that major energy companies were taking more interest in PV.

Jürgen Fuchs of E-Bell Recycling in Mainz, meanwhile, added that he was awaiting the formation of Germany’s new coalition government, which will have to ratify the European Union’s directive on PV module recycling. EU member states are due to adopt legislation in February mandating PV module recycling, which is expected to spur fiercer competition among recycling service companies.