Dutch PV exhibition Solar Solutions International has opened its doors for the first time since the pre-pandemic days of 2019, to an audience which exceeded pre-Covid levels.
According to Rolf Heynen, founding partner of trade show organizer Good! Events & Media, visitor registrations for this week’s show beat the 2019 figures by 10-15%. The large solar solutions hall in Haarlemmermeer, near Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, was filled with exhibitors and visitors as the three-day show kicked off yesterday.
Solar Solutions managed to increase visitor numbers at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is still keeping the world within its grip because of two factors, according to Heynen: The Dutch PV market has grown considerably, even during the pandemic, adding 10,000 full-time positions to catapult the PV workforce in the Netherlands to just under 29,000; and also, in Heynen’s words: “For many people it’s the first trade show in two-and-a-half years.”
The Dutch market has proven resilient in the face of the pandemic. According to the latest Dutch Solar Trend Report, released this month by Good! Events' sister company Dutch New Energy Research, 3.5 GW of photovoltaic generation capacity was installed in the country last year, expanding the total from around 7 GW at the end of 2019 to 10.7 GW at the end of December. Heynen – who is also CEO of Dutch New Energy Research – said all three market segments developed favorably, supported by a long-standing net-metering scheme for rooftop installations and the attractive, technology-neutral SDE+ and SDE++ auction programs, which are premised on the level of support needed and the amount of CO2 reductions offered. The auction system serves as the main driver for commercial and industrial (C&I) solar projects, while the net-metering rules have driven residential PV to new heights, eclipsing the 1 million-system annual installation mark last year.
Specifically, some 1.1 GW of residential PV was installed in 2020 – around a third of the overall 3.5 GW new solar figure. C&I solar also accounted for about a third of the market, with utility scale PV contributing the rest. The thriving residential market not only accounted for most of the new jobs mentioned by Heynen but also provided the key driver for many exhibitors to book a booth at Solar Solutions this week. Those companies include solar thermal installers and other vendors which stand to benefit from increased PV adoption and electrification, such as suppliers of electric vehicle charging systems, heat pumps, and other electric heating products.
Residential batteries, however, have been hard to find at this week's show, since the national net-metering program largely obviates the need to add battery storage at home. That unusual situation is unlikely to change in the next two years, since the Dutch parliament is keen to keep the net-metering incentive in place at least until 2023. However, a proposed amendment to existing legislation is being discussed which would taper down the net-metering allowance over nine years, to end it in 2031.
While no end to the Dutch residential PV boom appears to be in sight, grid constraints could prove an obstacle for the deployment of large scale solar, whether C&I or utility scale. In fact, as the latest solar trend report revealed, grid conditions show “no” and “very limited” capacity in various Dutch municipalities, especially in the north of the country, where the installation of SDE+ projects is more advanced.
As Heynen observed in an interview on the show floor with pv magazine yesterday, the country’s grid operators have been overly conservative in their projections for solar, leading to a gap between the very aggressive rate of PV adoption and the far slower rate at which the grid has been strengthened to accommodate renewables. Grid companies could argue, however, few could have anticipated the heady growth of Dutch solar in the past five years, with annual growth rates of more than 40% in the last four years, starting with 2016-17 year-on-year growth of 41.4%.
For those who cannot make tomorrow's final day of Solar Solutions International, the 2022 edition will take place in mid-March and promises to have even more exhibitors and visitors as the country continues to surprise on the upside.
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