From pv magazine Germany
Europe was once the heart of the solar industry, but those times are long gone. Asian countries, particularly China, have since pulled ahead with gigawatt-scale production of PV products. The European solar industry has survived, thanks to small manufacturers, but there are also plans afoot for large-scale production on the continent.
The European Solar Manufacturing Council (ESMC) has determined that in 2019, only about 11% of silicon, 1% of ingots and wafers, 0.4% of solar cells, and 4% of solar modules were manufactured in Europe, accounting for 15% of global PV demand. Many solar modules must be imported and demand is currently rising in many European countries.
With this in mind, ESMC is now insisting that €20 billion ($23.9 billion) from the €700 billion EU Recovery and Resilience Facility should be used to support the growth of PV production in Europe. Around 37% of the funds are to be spent on clean-tech and EU member states will share their views on how the money should be used by the end of this month.
“The European photovoltaic industry suffers from a lack of strategic political priorities,” the ESMC said. Eicke Weber, the chairman of the organization, added that a strong PV manufacturing industry will ensure resiliency. “By energetically reversing the situation and giving the PV industry the opportunity to supply the European market, Europe can regain control of its energy transition,” said Weber.
The pandemic has shown that Europe should not remain overly dependent on material imports. It is of strategic importance for countries to have regional and local PV value chains. The ESMC has stated that at least 75% of PV demand in Europe should be covered by domestic production. Two-thirds of PV products produced in Europe should be exported, it said.
This would mean building up 60 GW of manufacturing capacity in Europe by 2026. The current trade deficit of €10.5 billion in solar cells and modules could be converted into around €50 billion of PV production on the continent. This would also create around 178,000 new jobs in Europe.
“Based on the current market situation, there is an excellent time window of two to four years to rebuild a competitive photovoltaic production chain, as a global technological change from PERC cells to other technologies such as heterojunction or TOPCon cells is taking place,” the ESMC said.
The organization said that the proposed EU Reconstruction Fund support should focus on three main pillars: PV manufacturing plants and infrastructure, R&D and new product launches, and dedicated financial funds. It is hoped that the €20 billion will help to facilitate a genuine breakthrough for the European PV manufacturing industry, the ESMC said.
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