EC gives ‘much-awaited signal to re-ignite’ European solar manufacturing

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Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. Image: European Commission.

Europe’s solar industry has lauded the inclusion of a commitment to “re-ignite” Europe’s solar manufacturing sector within the European Commission’s refreshed industrial strategy.

Earlier today the European Commission published a revised industrial strategy, revealing a host of measures, aims and commitments designed to help guide its member states’ recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

It builds on an initial industrial strategy that was originally published in March 2020, just as the impacts of the pandemic were beginning to be felt on the continent. Throughout the pandemic, the European Commission writes that European industry was “exposed to new vulnerabilities and older dependencies”, the strategy states.

“[The pandemic] also illustrated the need for more speed in the transition towards a cleaner, more digital, and more resilient economic and industrial model, in order to maintain and enhance Europe’s drive towards sustainable competitiveness,” the document writes.

This prompted the need for an update to the strategy which, amongst other measures, has identified 14 “industrial ecosystems” that are to receive tailored support, of which renewables and domestic renewables manufacturing is one.

Current investment into renewables, energy storage, grids and other related technologies within the EU are too low, the revised strategy says, stressing that European industry needs access to abundant, affordable and decarbonised electricity if the transition is to deliver “genuinely sustainable competitiveness”.

The strategy argues that additional efforts are needed to meet those aims, and the European Commission has pledged to collaborate with member states to increase their ambitions accordingly. Specifically, the report stresses that the market expansion and surging demand for solar PV – amongst other technologies – is a “key opportunity” for the bloc, with even greater scales than are delivered now capable of lowering energy costs for industry and consumers alike.

The European Commission said it welcomes efforts to scale up solar manufacturing in Europe, paying specific mention to the European Solar Initiative, launched by trade bodies SolarPower Europe and EIT InnoEnergy earlier this year to trigger a return of solar manufacturing in Europe.

In addition, the strategy repeats a commitment to environmentally conscious design measures for solar panels, including the potential requirement for carbon footprints to be considered during module procurement, widely considered to be a key potential policy lever in driving adoption of European-made solar products.

Europe’s solar industry has warmly welcomed its inclusion in the Commission’s industrial strategy revision, stressing it to be a “much-awaited signal to reignite solar manufacturing in Europe and enable the EU to take the lead in the next generation of cutting-edge solar technologies”, as Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe, said today.

“After years of intense work we are thrilled that the revised industrial strategy endorses the European Solar Initiative as a critical industrial alliance to deliver Europe’s solar industrial leadership.

“The ESI is already working at full speed to secure first investment decisions for solar manufacturing projects in the upcoming months. This arrives at a critical moment: today at least eight GW-scale cell manufacturing projects are under development in the EU,” Naomi Chevillard, senior policy advisor at SolarPower Europe, added.

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