Europe dark spot for global PV

Amid a blossoming global market for solar PV, there is one glum note – Europe, the industry’s historic core.

Globally, some 37GW of PV capacity was installed during 2013, a 19% rise on 2012, according to the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA).

The brightest news of 2013 came out of Asia, where China and Japan claimed the world’s number one and two slots, putting up 11.3GW and 6.9GW respectively – compared to 5GW and 2GW the year prior.

The US also notched up a stellar performance, with the overall market growing 41% to 4.75GW, according to recent figures from GTM Research.

Yet amid the good news of global growth and ever-falling price of PV systems stands Europe, where the seriousness of the market slowdown “should not be underestimated”, claims EPIA.

Europe’s share of the global PV market has fallen from a dominant 70% in 2011 to just 28% last year – not necessarily a bad thing in the context of a growing global market. But the European market is falling sharply in real terms, too.

Europe – including the EU and a handful of neighbouring countries like Turkey – collectively added just 10GW of PV last year, down from 17.6GW in 2012 and 22.4GW in 2011.

The German market fell to 3.3GW from 7.6GW in 2012, even as the country saw many of its remaining PV companies – including Conergy and, most recently, Aleo – being snapped up by foreign players.

Yesterday Solon announced that its headquarters will be shifted from Berlin to the United Arab Emirates and its distinctive Berlin offices closed, in part because emerging markets in Africa and the Middle East appear more exciting than Europe.

In future, Solon will serve the whole of Europe out of a single distributor.

Italy, meanwhile, is likely to have added just 1.1GW-1.4GW of PV last year, down from its high-water mark of 9.4GW in 2011.

While several European markets like the UK are growing strongly, several former emerging hot spots cooled considerably in 2013, including Denmark and Belgium.

“In a number of European countries, harsh support reduction, retrospective measures and unplanned changes to regulatory frameworks that badly affect investors’ confidence and PV investments viability have led to a significant market decrease,” says Gaetan Masson, EPIA’s head of business intelligence.