UK installation plunge drags on European solar growth: SPE

A plunge in UK installations dragged down European PV capacity growth in the first three quarters 2016, according to latest figures from industry body SolarPower Europe (SPE) that suggest a full-year total of 7.1GW is on the cards.

Europe added 1.56GW in the July-September third quarter, down from 1.73GW in the same quarter in 2015, said SPE’s latest market update.

That left the nine-month total at 5.3GW, an 18% fall from a year-earlier 6.5GW.

UK support changes are the prime factor behind the fall, said SPE, after the country axed support for large-scale solar earlier this year and cut feed-in tariffs for small arrays.

The effect is starkly illustrated by the 1.5GW that was connected to the UK grid in the first three quarters of 2016 – most of it before March – compared to the 4.1GW the country added in 2015 as a whole.

SPE said if the current fourth quarter plays out in a similar fashion to last year, Europe could be set for about 7.1GW for 2016 as a whole – down from the 8.6GW added last year.

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The body said demand has grown in a handful of markets, “but future developments for one of the strongest growth markets, Turkey, is very difficult to predict, due to its political situation and strong protectionist measures”.

SPE pointed out that the European picture is very different to the stellar growth seen in global PV leaders China and the US. The latter added a record 4.1GW of new PV in the third quarter.

Michael Schmela, head of market intelligence at SPE, said: "In light of the Paris COP21 agreement it is concerning that the European solar market growth is slowing down, especially now that solar has become the lowest-cost power source in many European regions today."

SPE wants the European Commission to raise its game in several areas as it moves forward with its recent ‘clean energy package’ proposals. In particular the body wants to see a 35% 2030 renewable energy target rather than 27%, maintenance of priority dispatch for renewables, and improved measures to deal with capacity mechanisms.