Experts appeared split on whether PV manufacturing can create the highly paid, quality jobs Europeans want (Credit: Flickr / Dmitry Dzhus)
France’s success odds with a plan to re-energise European PV manufacturing remain a divisive topic for solar experts, PV Tech found as part of a yet-to-be-published feature.
Conversations for an article in the upcoming PV Tech Power issue revealed mixed feelings for a new government roadmap, seeking to bring back upstream “champions” within 10 years.
Dr. Andreas W. Bett, director of Fraunhofer ISE, said he was “very pleased” to see Paris spearhead a comeback of European manufacturers, now majorly outcompeted by Chinese rivals.
“Europe lost the battle in the past but there’s a second race coming. We looked recently at the figures and saw cost differences with Asia are now very, very small,” Bett argued.
The director admitted European manufacturing will need scale and an entire supply chain to keep up with Asia. “If we’re not competitive, we’ll have a political dependency on imports,” he said.
Jenny Chase of BloombergNEF was more sceptical. “I don’t think it makes sense to manufacture in Europe … it doesn’t necessarily create the high-tech jobs Europeans want,” the solar analyst argued.
“If people put enough money into it then you can probably do it but solar manufacturing is a pretty tough business to be in…Half the firms I’ve ever written about have gone bankrupt,” Chase added.
At various degrees, the experts agreed that environmentally-friendly products, R&D and a partial refocus on battery making are all avenues European makers can explore to gain advantage.
Bett noted the strong policy support EU battery specialists already enjoy – which he linked to car makers – while Chase said batteries' complexity creates more potential for highly paid jobs than with PV.
The business of solar is changing, as the industry scales up, technology, IT and new players to the market will add complexity. This sparks a host of opportunities such as co-location of solar and storage and the rise of unsubsidised solar projects as well as challenges which will question the very business model of European solar asset owners. Solar Finance & Investment Europe is the meeting place for institutional investors, sovereign wealth funds, solar, wind and storage funds and large energy buyers to do business.