Reviving Europe’s decimated manufacturing base for solar cells and panels could spur the PV installations needed to meet the continent’s climate goals according to the EU Commission’s research unit.
The continent’s supply constraints for modules can be eliminated and jobs created, advises the Joint Research Centre, if Brussels takes upstream action to push EU states’ 117GW of solar deployment now towards the 630GW it requires by 2025. Electrification of the continent’s heat and transport, plus output of synthetic fuels like low carbon hydrogen, are driving the continent’s need for huge increases in renewable power capacity.
Solar manufacturing has achieved 85 per cent fall in per watt production costs since 2010. The JRC predicts setting up larger, more efficient cell and module factories around the EU27 states would be 90 per cent cheaper now than during Europe’s first solar boom of the 2000s.
“The European manufacturing chain [in solar components] could be competitive with factories with an annual production volume from 5 to 10 GW,” reckons the JRC. Its report contrasts this with the EU’s respective production fleets of 1GW and 3GW hosted today for PV cells and modules.
Prioritising upstream solar manufacture now when deciding EU regional investment grants, plus tax breaks from national governments, are among measures the Commission should consider promoting, says the JRC. Between 300,000 and 400,000 new jobs in solar manufacturing plus installation, can help redeploy workers from the continent’s smokestack industries of mining, and oil & gas.
Repeated sets of two-year anti-dumping deals struck between 2013 and 2017 with Chinese suppliers by the EU Commission failed to save EU-based solar manufacture. Germany’s panel maker Solarworld led protectionist calls, but filed for final bankruptcy in March 2018.
Since then a consolidation has been repeatedly predicted among the 75 major manufacturers, largely based in Asia, that make 90 per cent of the world’s solar equipment. However, that is yet to happen, industry observers have noted, thanks to continuing strength in green electricity demand around the globe.