The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) has engaged in dialogue with all stakeholders in the energy sector since its inception 30 years ago. This is the best way to further the objectives of making solar energy a leading contributor to the European electricity market.
EPIA holds discussions with other technologies and associations, including the gas, wind and more recently storage industries, to find points of commonality. Sharing views on how solar energy can play a big part in the European energy market is key to our long term success. EPIA will continue such dialogue and seek to find the best solutions for solar energy.
Today it is clear that talking with all technologies that offer flexibility solutions, such as gas, storage, demand response, etc., will be essential to support the development of renewables. Taking a comprehensive approach to the development of Europe’s energy system is the only sensible and pragmatic option.
Our membership is diverse and covers all the actors in the solar value chain, from equipment manufacturers to utilities. All have a shared interest in promoting renewables and solar energy in Europe.
Regarding our Board members, all are elected by the full EPIA membership to represent the solar industry’s needs in Europe. Our board elections represent the will of the members, and the members chose this board legitimately.
As ever, much of this growth depends on the policy framework that is set up to support our sector to develop. 2015 promises to be a significant year with policy interventions ranging from the highly specific European Commission Eco-design initiative for PV Inverters, through to meta level decisions impacting EU-China trade and the end of the price undertaking. The Eco-design initiative could have significant impacts on the manufacture and performance of inverters in Europe, while the development of the trade situation will clearly influence the ability for growth of the sector in Europe.
The 2015 policy agenda also sees many opportunities for solar with initiatives such as the Euro 300bn Jobs Growth and Investment package that may well support the development of renewables in Europe. EPIA has already put forward proposals for how best to use this fund to deliver a boost for the solar sector and will actively work with political interests to obtain a real outcome for our sector. Alongside this the European Commission is also looking at the means to ensure the target of 27% of European energy consumption from renewables by 2030, EPIA will present proposals for national systems to ensure that this target is met – and that solar energy takes as big a share as possible.
Finally 2015 will see the discussion and development of capacity mechanisms across the European Union, with the Commission bringing forward its own guidelines on electricity market design. This will be a crucial debate to ensure that such mechanisms do not end up protecting energies of the past such as coal and nuclear and rather promote the energies of now and the future, including solar.
Naturally EPIA will be in the frontline across Europe and beyond promoting the importance of policies that support the sector in 2015.
EPIA is proud to be one of the oldest solar associations globally. We represent the interest of companies and associations active in the biggest market in the world, with more than 80 GW solar PV installed in Europe (60% of global total installations). EPIA and its members have lead the impressive growth of the European solar market from 100 MW to 80 GW in only 15 Years. Through over 30 years of excellence and leadership, EPIA supported the creation of the world’s largest solar market.
2015 will be full of exciting initiatives to celebrate our 30 year anniversary, a selection of highlights is provided below.
EPIA will for the first time organise a high-level strategic event, hosting our members and energy sector stakeholders, to discuss the development of solar energy in the European electricity market. The event will be held on 20 May in Brussels and will be followed by the EPIA Gala Dinner. On the following day, we will organise our members Annual General Meeting, which will continue into our Anniversary Party. We certainly look forward to seeing you all at these events!
From a business relevance perspective, EPIA is engaging in new activities this year, including developing guidelines for European O&M best practices to professionalize our industry. We will also participate in the WTO discussion on liberalisation of solar products for the benefit of all parts of the solar value chain. We will also shape the European Commission eco-design for inverters initiative, amongst many other new initiatives. All these activities are industry driven, with dedicated EPIA task forces. EPIA will also focus on financing and business models this year, supported by new EC-funded projects and dedicated events. All these activities will be supported by a new series of EPIA webinars.
Our 10th EPIA Market Workshop will be held on 26 March 2015, in Brussels. For more information see our Top Story article on the 10th EPIA Market Workshop. Alongside this EPIA will publish our flagship forecasting report, the Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics. Two new EPIA studies will drive discussions in the energy sector and media on market design and power decentralization.
Our 30 years anniversary programme, including 30 events & partnerships for our members, will be highly dynamic and we will keep you updated on a regular basis!
A number of leading companies were invited to a workshop with known high-level experts from the O&M and asset management business active in Europe, to share their knowledge and valuable experience. During the workshop the results of an EPIA survey on the challenges and opportunities experienced by O&M providers in Europe was presented. Following up on the results of the survey, all the experts participated actively in the panel discussions addressing a list of challenges of high business relevance. The full set of minutes and actions will be shared with the EPIA membership shortly.
All the participants agreed that there is a need for a set of guidelines on O&M activities in Europe, and that EPIA was best placed to support the discussions as an independent party. The attendees agreed that the results from the discussions exceeded their expectations and strengthened the desire to continue to work on this field, through creating a dedicated Task Force in EPIA that will handle specific priority topics identified by the experts. EPIA was acknowledged as the right platform to run and lead this activity and together with its expert-members produce industry led best practices/guidelines for O&M services throughout 2015.
This activity highlights EPIA’s new desire to drive the professionalisation of our industry, to ensure sustainable competition, risk reduction and an ever growing European solar sector.
EPIA: In the context of a shrinking European market, which may have been between 8 and 9 GW last year, France is performing quite well.
S: Indeed. In 2014 around 1 GW of systems may have been connected, even if 400 MW systems had been approved 2 or 3 years ago.
EPIA: And the government is keeping the market under strict control through tenders for medium and large installations and through low feed-in-tariffs. Am I right?
S: Yes, you are. The latest bidding procedure was launched in November 2014 for 400 MW projects of above 250 kW peak. Earlier requests for large project proposals were opened in September 2012 and in March 2013. Each of the two tenders for smaller projects (100-250 kW peak) that have been organised (1st: August 2011-May 2013, 2nd: March 2013-June 2014) so far has allowed for a capacity of just 266.7 MW since August 2011. Feed-in-tariffs for large installations are just too low (between 13 and 6 EUR cents per kWh) to create a market and just high enough to trigger some small BIPV systems (up to 27 EUR cents per kWh).
EPIA: What kind of regulatory changes would help the market grow even more?
S: Making the definition of building integration less strict would be a first step to support the growth of small and medium scale PV, which the government seems to prefer to ground mounted systems. Then, PV represents a great option for businesses that want to become more competitive by controlling their energy costs. However, to increase the interests of these consumers in PV a raise in the FiT levels for systems between 9 and 100 kW, tax rebates for self-consumption as well as real self-consumption framework are needed.
EPIA: Is the government receptive to your suggestions on building integration and FiT levels and self-consumption?
S: We have had very fruitful discussions with the government on self-consumption. We have been involved in a working group, which should publish a report at the end of January and we hope that this report will be the basis for subsequent positive regulatory decisions.
EPIA: Does the forthcoming UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change in Paris represent a good opportunity for improvements to the PV policy framework?
S: We really hope so. Ahead of the Paris conference the government is expected to approve the long-awaited law on the energy transition. That law should be the starting point for the setting of higher PV objectives. Just bear in mind that the Renewable Energy Action Plan foresaw only 5.4 GW PV by 2020. This objective has just been achieved. But recent impressive cost reductions proving the viability of the PV technology make this objective obsolete and call for its urgent upward revision.
EPIA: You seem to be quite optimistic about the future PV perspectives in France.
S: Yes, we are. We also believe that the recent approval of a European renewable energy target for the year 2030 will contribute to create a positive momentum for PV in France.