Intersolar: Opening press conference stresses importance of sustainable incentives

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Day one of the Intersolar Europe exhibition in Munich, Germany, began with a clear message from the show’s organizers and representatives of the German Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar) – to survive and thrive, PV incentives must become more sustainable.

The importance of this rhetoric was underlined by the announcement that the Intersolar Europe exhibition has this year been joined by the electrical energy storage (ees) exhibition running independently alongside the show.

"The energy storage segment has been growing rapidly over the past few years, and it was a conscious decision of Solar Promotion to integrate this topic into our program," said Elsässer. "Storage and self-consumption are key issues for the PV market in 2014."

For its debut alongside Intersolar Europe, the ees exhibition boasts 250 exhibitors focused solely on the storage market. This figure, according to Elsässer, is a 25% increase on last year, and makes Intersolar Europe the largest exhibition to combine PV, batteries and storage.

Carsten Körnig of BSW-Solar remarked that the growth of the storage sector illustrates how dependence on unsustainable incentive programs around the world, such as the feed-in tariff (FIT), is decreasing. "As system costs for PV come down, particularly in Germany, there is now a new incentive to produce and use your own electricity rather than feeding it into the grid. The 250 storage specialists at the show are testament to this growth."

Körnig added that grid parity, which used to be considered the Holy Grail for the PV industry, is already commonplace in a number of European markets, particularly Italy and Germany. The challenge over the next few years, and something that will be addressed at this year’s Intersolar Europe exhibition, is to continue to provide incentives to invest in solar that are sustainable, profitable and affordable.

"We now have a good basis for a new business model – using the advantage of decentralized power and providing power close to the consumer," said Körnig. The development of intelligent energy management systems and storage technology with intelligent monitoring controls will be a key theme of the exhibition, he said.

Recovering from a tough year

However, both Elsässer and Körnig were adamant that there can be no hiding from one inescapable fact – it has been a tough year for solar PV in Europe, and especially difficult for Germany.

Globally, the market has grown by more than 20% over the past 12 months, with global PV installations forecast at between 45-50 GW. According to Körnig, Germany will look to stabilize this year at close to 3 GW, with Europe adding 10 GW collectively in 2014, and similar figures expected for next year.

This trend is mirrored in Intersolar Europe’s own figures. According to Elsässer, the show will attract an estimated 50,000 visitors from 151 countries this year, "which makes us the world’s most international solar event," he added. Last year, the show drew 46,929 visitors from 151 countries.

Exhibitor numbers are slightly down on 2013, with 1,134 companies exhibiting this year (last year there were 1,292), while the exhibition floor space has also contracted to 90,000 square meters this year, down from 121,000 square meters in 2013.

Despite this year’s minor shrinkage, Elsässer was confident that the Intersolar Europe event of 2014 can still set tongues wagging. The subject of energy storage and self-consumption has already been a rather hot topic and, for the first time ever, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) has lent its expertise to the show, delivering a general market outlook, forecast and report on new business models.