EU PVSEC: Innovative research and development key to solving PV financial crisis

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R & D spending will help investors regain confidence in the PV industry, opined Eric Peeters, recently appointed VP of Dow Corning’s electronic solutions business. Peeters stated that people used to buy panels to show their neighbours how good a citizen they were. Now, due to the in-fighting in the industry and cheap modules lacking in quality, investors – private and public – believe the industry is too big a risk to invest in. He believes that the attitudes of the electorate towards solar energy need to be changed before attempting to meet policymakers.

As has been pointed out on a variety of different occasions this week at EU PVSEC in Frankfurt, the PV market is in dire financial stress. At EPIA’s investment forum yesterday, Martin Simonek, Bloomberg Finance, reiterated that at the very least, the next two years will be as much of a struggle as 2012.

He believes that this year, 27 to 41 manufacturers can satisfy demand, however, in 2014 only 12 to 26 manufacturers will be able to meet their targets. The level of R & D spending this year has been 2% compared to for example, the semiconductor industry, which is at 16%.

The panel, also consisting of Fabrizio Bonemazzi, Solar European Industry Initiative (SEII), Helge Hardacker, Quantum Board, Philip Pieters, IMEC and Jochen Schönfelder, Roland Berger, agreed that cost reductions should not be made at the detriment of innovative R & D projects. Pieters from IMEC suggested collaboration between companies, utilizing financial leveraging methods to increase company revenue whilst minimizing risks.

However, protectionism is rife within the industry which could adversely affect progression and a company’s lifetime, he concluded.

Pieters also argued that PV products are not like cell phones, therefore innovation takes time – “it doesn’t happen over night”, he said.

Overall, the panel concurred that with more creative and innovative R & D projects, Europe may just about be able to hit its 2020 targets.


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