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Solar Exec: European PV Sector Heading To Its Death, Systemic R&D Change Needed

The European solar PV sector is headed to its death if systemic change doesn’t occur with regard to research and development (R&D) practices, according to the chief executive of one of Europe’s last remaining integrated solar PV manufacturers, Photowatt.

With this drastic shift, Vincent Bes argues that the continent’s whole solar manufacturing industry will be completely wiped out — a warning with especial significance right now, considering that Hanwha Q CELLS just announced its withdrawal from Germany.

EU flag

The rather strong warning to the industry was made by Bes directly to a room full of key figures in Europe’s solar PV sector while speaking at France’s INES solar institute. While referencing the exit of Q CELLS from Europe, Bes stated that a “systemic shock” was needed — with regard to the way solar PV R&D infrastructure is organized in Europe — or there’s a real likelihood that all manufacturing capacity would find its way to Asia, as with Q CELLS.

“We won the first battle, which was to create a solar industry,” Bes stated, while referring to the continent’s early work with solar PV technology. “We lost the second battle and China won everything – not because they were smarter than us, just because they were richer than us and will continue to be.”

“In the next battle, if we want to survive, why don’t we merge all the research centres in Europe? There are billions spent (solar PV R&D) every year, but if there is no industry, what is the point? There is no point. Specialize each lab in one specific area — one lab in Switzerland could do the ingot, another one the wafer, another the cells.”

Bes also argued for closer ties between these research centers and the big manufacturers.

“All the ideas you have in your heads, come and work with these people, because if your ideas can’t be transferred into tools, it’s useless — it’s academic, hopeless. I respect schools and academies, but that’s wishful thinking to create jobs in the future,” Bes continued.

Interesting comments. Not sure that I agree with all of them, but something big definitely does need to happen to stop the death of the industry in Europe. Considering the continuing economic and political problems in Europe (reflected in various new policies), continued flight from the continent seems likely.

Image Credit: EU

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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