ETIP Photovoltaics

Paradigm shift

Paradigm shift in public support - from declarative to on-spot actual support

General declarative support for PV exists by goals and masterplans. Now it is the time to create actual support for a massive deployment of PV - especially in urban areas. Until now, implementing PV has been permissioned by local or regional authorities. In the coming decade the responsibility of policy from national to local level and regulatory framework has to change from permission of PV towards enabling and requirement of PV. Good practices appear on the horizon (City of Vienna PV obligation for public buildings, federal state Baden-Württemberg PV obligation on parking spaces etc.) and have to be adopted widely. Market regulation must be re-balanced to release the existing implementation potential, raise public support and accelerate energy transition. The next decade is crucial for the success of energy transition and an accelerated deployment of PV, because any new investment in fossil power generation over this timespan will otherwise become a stranded asset later and increase the societal costs. Therefore, it is equally important that sustainable energy policy is taken into account. A ‘sustainable-energy-policy-first’ rule will be of most importance for avoiding stranded assets given the urgency for a fast energy transition induced by a fast progressing climate change. The most important sustainable energy components include PV, but also consist of wind energy, batteries, electric vehicles, heat pumps and green hydrogen-based synthesis routes for products. Sustainable energy elements shall receive priority to solutions in violation with ambitious sustainability criteria in general, and the European Green Deal in particular.

Effective public dialogue encompassing the total costs, risks and benefits, size of deployment (area matters) will ensure public support. The dialogue should run in the broadest sense within three di- mensions:

Each individual citizen should be involved in the dialogue, even in different roles as a representative of a house- hold, member of an energy community, representative of regional government or a member state official. Effective public dialogue should be continuously assured by ETIP PV and PV related associations as one voice of Solar PV with member states and European Union as a whole.

The effective public dialogue for the high PV scenario should reveal actual benefits and current state-of-the-art costs of PV and their trends:

  • PV is already competitive and can make a huge contribution in the next decade (2020- 2030). This is key to remain in a pathway compatible with the Paris Agreement. This fact and such messages are missing in the public discussion. People still think that PV is an expensive technology, while the International Energy Agency mentioned in WEO2020 that solar PV is the lowest cost source of electricity mankind had access to in history. Media attention is addressed to the advantages that PV systems bring to society in the medi- um and long term but it is still too often focused on the high upfront investment costs of PV systems. Popular misconceptions of PV cost, energy production and environmental perfor- mance are long-lived and correcting these mistaken beliefs is difficult. Factsheets, conferenc- es and webinars may increase visibility and raise awareness, but true engagement of citizens is needed for a big change. In the last several years, PV has not just reached generation costs compared to conventional electricity supply costs in practically all countries across Europe, but it has already exhibited significantly lower costs. Therefore, it is important that accurate information is conveyed to citizens as potential users and our society including decision mak- ers more generally.
  • A massive deployment of PV is already going on in the electricity sector and PV is a no-regret option in other energy sectors, whereas supporting technologies will further accelerate the demand for PV, in particular batteries and water electrolysers. We have to be aware that regulatory requirements and bottlenecks for the use of photovoltaics on a large scale already exist. So it is important to continuously identify these bottlenecks and facilitate their simplifi- cation to speed up the process.
  • An energy system transition towards 100 % renewables leads to lower total system cost than other zero greenhouse gas emission options, and a major PV share is a fundamental driver for cost competitiveness.
  • PV systems are more and more sustainable and can be recycled almost entirely, embedded CO2 emissions can go down to zero as soon as sustainable input energy is used. Energy pay- back times continuously go down, while the energy return on energy invested steadily goes up, as a consequence of the energy learning rate.
  • Attractiveness and local acceptance of new infrastructures and operations for the whole val- ue chain will be affected by the costs.

The Green Deal and the energy transition have serious consequences for the EU industrial sec- tor. Coal and lignite mining is still a major economic activity in 12 EU Member states, but the phaseout of this activity as well as the use in thermal power plants is crucial to achieve the GHG reduction targets. Therefore, a socially acceptable employment alternative for approximately 240,000 citizens working in the sector is needed.

The retirement of coal power plants and the closure of mines should therefore be flanked with the accelerated deployment of PV. The construction of large scale PV plants in the coal regions over the next decade could generate about 225,000 construction jobs and the O&M sector could employ about 56,000 people in 2030. Nonetheless, even if the installation of solar photo- voltaic electricity generation systems would provide new jobs, not everybody currently working in the mining sector will be able to transfer to one of these new jobs. To compensate, additional flanking measures for a just energy transition have to be put in place.

The realisation of the rooftop potential on existing and new buildings could create a significant number of local jobs and offer citizens the possibility to economically participate in the energy transition using and selling the locally generated electricity. Such a development would also have a positive impact for jobs related to battery storage and related sectors. Strong synergies with the transition in the transport sector with road vehicles can be expected.

The accelerated deployment of distributed as well as large scale PV plants will increase the an- nual PV market and raises the question of supply chain security. The ongoing COVID pandemic has shown the vulnerability of the supply chain, though the predicted growth of the European solar sector can revive the PV manufacturing industry and create permanent manufacturing jobs in Europe.