Retrospective measures harming Europe's PV industry, says EPIA report

A report by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) has criticized what it calls many European governments’ "retrospective measures" on solar policy, claiming that such political meddling has seriously harmed the PV industry in Europe.

Titled Retrospective Measures at National Level and their Impact on the Photovoltaic Sector, the report analyzed many of the regulatory and legislative changes to PV policy introduced, ammended and/or withdrawn or revoked across Europe over the past few years, concluding that widespread short-termism, revisionism and a desire to correct previous mistakes has had a negative impact on the entire continent’s solar PV economy.

A short press briefing summarizing the 24-page report was scathing in its appraisal of various EU governments‘ initiatives, stating that the "European PV sector has been continuously facing retrospective measures and other unplanned changes that directly attack the stability and viability of existing and future investments in a number of countries."

The EPIA policy director, Frauke Thies, went on to explicitly state that government support scheme changes have had an eroding effect on the confidence of many PV industries throughout Europe, saying: "Retrospective measures, moratoria, as well as unplanned reductions and cancellations of support are often intended to fix governments‘ past mistakes of over-support, but they only deteriorate the situation.

"By generating an unstable environment for investments, such measures have provoked project cancellations, bankruptcies and job losses in the PV sector. What is more," Thies continued, "they are putting governments’ credibility at risk, with negative implications for the whole economy."

Further uncertainty on the way

Assertions made in the EPIA report may seem obvious, but a number of draft proposals in the pipeline would appear to suggest that some governments have not learnt from past – or their neighbours’ – mistakes: various retrospective measures are still being put in place, creating yet more uncertainty in an industry that has had to battle against multitude threats in 2013.

The report cites the situation in the Czech Republic as one example of poor and injurious policy planning. Over the past three years, EPIA write, numerous retrospective measures have been implemented, creating bankruptcies in the PV industry and leaving PV system owners unable to repay their bank loans.

The highly publicized contraction of Spain’s solar PV industry is also highlighted, with the report revealing that the industry supports just 7,000 jobs today – down from 80,000 direct and indirect jobs in 2008. The report also uncovers the situation in Greece – a country beset by numerous problems that have emanated from the government – finding a PV industry undermined by inconsistent policymaking that is damaging levels of trust in the market.

"In order to avoid any risk of over-compensation and to ensure a sustainable development of renewables in Europe, support mechanisms should undergo a ‘sustainability check’," says Thies. "They need to be technology-specific, predictable and dynamic at the same time. This means that support levels have to be adapted on a regular basis, based on objective and transparent criteria."

The full report – which takes an individual look at those countries in Europe that have either revoked support schemes or introduced retrospective measures – can be read here.