Industry group SolarPower Europe and European investment platform EIT InnoEnergy have kick-started an initiative to revive the continent’s once mighty solar PV manufacturing, which is supported by the European Commission.

The ‘European Solar Initiative (ESI)’ aims at scaling up the PV value chain in Europe to capture the booming demand for solar that is estimated at 20GW per year for the next decade, which could add €40bn annually to Europe’s gross domestic product and create 400,000 new jobs.

“The mix of national energy and climate plan demand, low cost of capital, notable successes in European technology development and a return of investment into the sector has created fertile ground for a rebirth of European PV,” EIT InnoEnergy chief executive Diego Pavia said.

Several of the world’s largest manufacturers of solar panels were based in Europe, mostly in Germany, during the first decade of the millennium, such as Q Cells, SolarWorld or Conergy. But falling domestic demand coupled with cheap state credit and dumping practices in China drove most of the European players into bankruptcy in the past decade.

EU tariffs on Chinese produce proved ineffective, only harmed other parts of the solar value chain, such as installers, and eventually were phased out.

Innovation, more efficient solar cells, an increased automation in production, and rapidly rising demand could produce a revival of Europe’s solar manufacturing sector, many in the industry hope.

“As the lowest-cost and most job-intensive renewable technology, solar is poised to deliver the goals of the European Green Deal and Green Recovery,” SolarPower Europe chief executive Walburga Hemetsberger said.

“The momentum is building to scale up manufacturing activities in the EU, based on the sustained technological leadership of European companies and strong domestic market uptake confirmed in 2020 despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

ESI is mirrored on a similar initiative to build-up a European energy storage and batteries sector, the European Battery Alliance, which aims at lessening the continent’s dependence on Asian imports.

The initiative is designed to bridge the gap between business cases, investors, off-takers, and the delivery of resources. It should thus shorten time to investment, de-risk, accelerate and boost the robustness of investment cases.

Green is the new black. Subscribe to Accelerate

Get the market insight you need into the global oil & gas industry's energy transition – from the new newsletter from Upstream and Recharge. Sign up here

“The future of the European energy system is renewable and solar energy has an important role to play in that,” said European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson.

“To quickly scale up green energy, we need the insights and cooperation of the industry. I am therefore very happy to see the launch of the European Solar Initiative, which I’m confident will give a boost to the entire solar PV value chain in Europe.”