Financial support for PV manufacturing facilities in Europe ‘urgently needed’, solar CEOs say

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Solar cell testing at a Meyer Burger facility in Germany. Image: Meyer Burger.

The CEOs of companies such as First Solar, BayWa r.e. and Meyer Burger have written to the European Commission (EC) to call for urgent action to support the redevelopment of European PV manufacturing.

In a letter sent yesterday to EC President Ursula von der Leyen, CEOs of 12 European and American companies said that developing a robust European solar manufacturing value chain and decreasing dependence on imports “will significantly reinforce” the EC’s energy security ambitions.

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They highlighted a recent report from the International Energy Agency that found China has invested ten times more than Europe in new PV supply capacity since 2011, meaning the country’s share in all PV module manufacturing stages – polysilicon, ingots, wafers, cells and modules – exceeds 80%.

In the letter, which was also signed by the CEO of trade body SolarPower Europe, the signatories said that ambitious and accelerated financial support for large-scale PV manufacturing projects in Europe “is urgently needed, flanked by competitive opex support for the entire supply chain, in particular the energy-intensive production of polysilicon, ingots and wafers”.

They pointed to international measures that highlight the need for stronger European action in accelerating its participation in the global competition for solar PV value chains.

The signatories noted that the US’s Inflation Reduction Act is proof of the country’s ambitions when it comes to reshoring clean energy industries, adding that the legislation provides clear and tangible operating expenses and capital expenditures benefits that guarantee predictable operational support for almost ten years.

They also highlighted an innovative auction design in India that is providing clarity to the solar industry. The country recently released guidelines for the second round of an incentive scheme that aims to add 65GW of PV module manufacturing capacity.

To ensure Europe’s competitive participation within a globally diversified solar supply chain, the signatories urged the EC to replicate the EU Chips Act – which aims to boost Europe’s share of global chip production capacity to 20%, up from its current level of around 10% – for solar PV technology.

The CEOs also called for the promotion of solar PV production in the National Resilience and Recovery Plans, which are part of NextGenerationEU, the EU’s response to the challenges COVID-19 has posed to the European economy and to prepare it for the green and digital transitions.

The proposals follow warnings last week that PV manufacturing projects across Europe are at risk of being mothballed due to soaring power prices. Consultancy Rystad Energy said the energy-intensive nature of solar PV manufacturing processes is leading some operators to temporarily close or abandon production facilities.

Maxeon Solar Technologies has since confirmed to PV Tech that it has shut down a PV module manufacturing plant in France, citing a challenging price environment.

The signatories to the letter said: “The challenges faced by solar manufacturers in Europe are many… Europe continues to face skyrocketing electricity prices – a concrete threat not only for the remaining EU solar manufacturing capacity, but also for any ambition to bring the solar value chain back to Europe.”

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