a new alliance revives european industrial ambition

Manufacture the equivalent of 30 gigawatts of solar panels in 2030: this is the objective defined by the European Alliance for the photovoltaic solar industry, with the ambition of claiming a competitive position in a market monopolized by China.

The solar industry is back in Europe, said Diego Pavia, CEO of the European Union’s European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT InnoEnergy), this Friday, December 9. This declaration concluded the launch conference of the new European Alliance for the photovoltaic solar industry (Esia) held in Brussels, within the framework of the European Strategy for solar energy, included in the RePowerEU plan.

The equivalent of 30 gigawatts of production capacity

The seven main strategic objectives of the European Alliance for the solar photovoltaic industry.
© Esia

Esia is supported by the European Commission and around forty European companies (including the French group Engie and the Swiss company Meyer Burger) involved in the entire value chain of the photovoltaic industry. Like other European alliances, such as those for green hydrogen or electric batteries, its ambition is to develop innovation projects and facilitate investments in building a competitive industry from end to end. photovoltaic modules. More specifically, Esia aims to support the installation of the equivalent of at least 30 gigawatts (GW) of industrial capacity in Europe by 2025. Enough to provide, according to the European executive, 600 billion euros a year to the continent’s GDP and create 400,000 jobs.

By way of comparison, there are only a few solar panel production factories in Europe. In 2021, Meyer Burger opened a photovoltaic cell production facility (with an annual capacity of 400 megawatts, MW), Thalheim and a module factory in Germany. high tech (with annual capacity of 400 MW and soon 1 GW), Freiberg. In 2022, the European Union allocated 600 million euros (including 118 million through Innovation Fund) the Italian company Enel Green Power to expand its solar panel factory in Catania, Sicily, with a capacity of 200 MW 3 GW per year from 2024. At the same time, the French start-up Carbon plans to establish the first French photovoltaic module mega-factory (with an expected capacity of 5 GW) by 2025.

Compete with China and the United States

What solar capabilities in Europe
One of the main objectives of the RePowerEU plan is to increase the share of renewables in the European energy mix to 45% by 2030. This represents the installation of a capacity, all renewables combined, of 1.23 trawatt (TW) , that is, doubling in less than ten years. For the photovoltaic sector, and therefore for Asia, the target is to reach an installed capacity of 320 GW in 2025, then 600 GW by 2030, to around 200 GW by the end of 2022 (including 15.8 GW in France). It should be noted that this year, Europe connected another 39 GW, breaking the record of 27 GW installed in a year in 2021. Globally, just over 1 TW of photovoltaic solar energy is in operation, among 3 TW all renewable energies combined.

In order to achieve the target set by Esia, all necessary measures must be taken in the next six monthsinsisted the CEO from Enel Green Power, Salvatore Bernabei. This should happen, he believes, through a commitment by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to inject at least 80 billion euros a year for ten years, through its new European platform for the development of green technologies (or Clean Tech Europe), which opened on November 30. This support would be well above the 5 billion euros of aid provided to the sector by the EIB in the last five years and the approximately 12 billion euros spent on imported solar panels every year.

According to private actors, responding quickly to this demand is essential if Europe, in the midst of building its own industrial ecosystem, does not want to lose ground to the United States. Indeed, the anti-inflation bill (or Inflation Reduction Act) recently signed into law by President Joe Biden includes strong tax incentives to promote the development of your own solar strike force: in particular, a 30% deduction on investments in the field for the next ten years. It is worth remembering that the country of Uncle Sam intends to install 30 new gigawatts per year until 2025, based on the current 121 GW.

Improving the regulatory framework, especially in the economic and commercial spheres, also seems inevitable. The European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, announced the publication with this in mind new economic criteria to promote the European photovoltaic industry before June 2023. Among the points already proposed by the manufacturers: restricting the import of solar panels according to criteria of sustainability and respect for human rights. One way for European companies to combat Chinese hegemony: currently, more than 80% of the market and value chain are held by China.

Article published on December 9, 2022

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