pv magazine: after three years as president of SolarPower Europe you have decided not to stand as a candidate for re-election. Why is that?
Oliver Schäfer: Actually, I would have remained in the position with pleasure. It was quick decision, because SunPower laid me off in late February. This meant that I no longer had a company backing my candidacy. Previously in November, SunPower said that I had to keep acting as SolarPower Europe’s president. To my very great regret I had to resign only for these reasons.
You have been Market Devolopment Director for SunPower in Europe for the last eight years. The company is currently reducing its presence in Europe and focusing on American markets. Is this the right decision?
I would have taken a different decision, and I would also have wished a different one. I believe that Europe is a growing market that can be developed in terms of GWs, especially for PV and storage. In the upcoming years, we will see new concepts that Europe has tested and implemented as a forerunner.
During your presidency of SolarPower Europe the anti-dumping conflict with China was one of the major issues. The EU has now extended the duties for 18 months. Was is it a defeat for the association, which hoped that the duties would be cancelled?
It could have been worse. It is a compromise we can easily live with. SolarPower Europe has always stressed that, if the European Commission has evidence that Chinese manufacturers sold panels at dumping prices or received state subsidies, the duties must be extended. If the Commission has this evidence, its decision is logical. The interim review will now say how long this will last.
The trade issue with China has divided the European solar sector. How can this wound be patched up?
We all have to work together for the future of energy. We have a chance to do so now with the negotiations for the EU Winter Package, which is expected to completely change the market.
How would you evaluate the current development of the European market?
I expect that the legislation for energy will dramatically change in Europe. The energy market will change from a kWh-based market to a market focusing on energy services. In doing so, solar, wind and gas will play a central role. The change of the power market design and the interconnection of power, heat and mobility also provide good opportunities.
What are the key issues for the future?
It needs to be clear that we have to get out of coal power production. In order to reach this goal, we are now fighting and we will still have to struggle to get rid of this 30% share from the electricity market. I am convinced that those companies who now defend coal will not exist in ten years. At the same time, there are big chances for further development of PV, wind and gas in Europe.
What to you wish your successor at SolarPower Europe?
All the best and further success with the legislative process.
Will you keep working in the solar sector?
Sincerely, I cannot say for now. But I believe I will remain in the energy sector.
Interview by Sandra Enkhardt.