Interview: Europe needs big PV manufacturers


pv magazine: Mr. Daval, in one of SER-Soler's latest reports, the association speaks of the chance to create a major European solar manufacturer. Over the past years, there were rumors about creating this Airbus of solar between France and Germany. Now that with Macron’s election, the Franco-German axis seems revived, do you believe there are good chances we will see a European GW player? Given that Europe’s largest PV producer SolarWorld recently filed for insolvency, and that French module maker Sillia did the same thing a few weeks ago.

Daval: The creation of the conditions for the birth of this new major European module maker is my Marshall plan. SolarWorld and Sillia are not large industrial groups. My mission is to educate, communicate and mobilize the entire industry. There are very strong industrial groups in Europe with knowledge of what it means to make things, to produce goods. And these are my target. These are the people I want to talk to. Energy is one of the main challenges of this century, and we can’t leave to Asia the exclusivity to provide it. Energy, and solar, will be the driver of this century's growth, we can’t let someone else do it for us. We have to take over this power. This is not a matter of cost or bank power, this is a matter of keeping the balance right between the East, the West, the North and the South. As a region, we can’t be excluded from what will be the main driver of the world's economy.

Do you think this is going to be very difficult to achieve?

We are not talking about something light. We are talking about the challenge of this century. When module manufacturing moved to China, Germans thought they would have kept selling their production equipment to Chinese solar producers, but now we are seeing factories in China equipped with locally manufactured production lines. That move was, over the long run a wrong decision. So, what we have to do now as Europeans, is to correct this situation. In the car industry, there are big players in Europe, China and the United States. This should also occur in the solar industry. If we don't do that we will be dependent. We have been depending on oil coming from outside of Europe for a century, we can't continue to remain dependent for our energy supply.

French oil company Total is the largest shareholder of SunPower, EDF has its own module manufacturer, Photowatt. Enel has recently announced it intends to expand production capacity at its module factory in southern Italy. Moreover, French energy giant Engie has recently expanded into the solar sector. Do you believe that European utilities may be interested in creating this solar super entity?

No, when I say industrial groups I do not mean utilities. I respect all of the companies you named, but these are service companies. Delivering services and making goods, hardware, require completely different cultures. Therefore, what I am calling for is a gathering of good manufacturers, whose core business is to manufacture hardware.

Are there already concrete plans for a future giant PV module maker?

Not yet from my side, as I just started in my new position 6 months ago, but I want to take the opportunity of this interview to call in whoever wants to join in this challenging endeavour. And the plan is not solely focused on modules, but the complete supply chain.

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How big should this entity be in terms of production capacity?

Obviously, capacities now expressed in Gigawatts and smaller undertakings have proven that they are not able to compete.

Do you also believe that more European GW players could exist in the future?

If more means a lot, this is not sure, but all large global regions must have their (one two?) champion(s)

Could this new entity also come from the merging of existing European solar producers?

Sure, that would make a lot of sense, to start by putting together existing skills that today are very scattered.

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