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Instability to stalk European solar PV market over next five years

July 15, 2010 | Paul Buckley | 222901213
Instability to stalk European solar PV market over next five years Market research analyst, Solarbuzz, reports that the pace of the European solar photovoltaic (PV) market in the first half of 2010 was dominated by the impending mid-year incentive tariff reductions in Germany and conditioned by the lower module pricing that emerged through 2009.
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The new market study entitled 'Solarbuzz in Europe PV Markets 2010' looks back at 2009 and points out that the German PV market reached 3.87 GW, with a growth rate of 109 percent. The growth would have been even larger if not for a shortage of inverters that has curbed the market since September 2009. The largest customer segments in 2009 were Investor Groups (42 percent of the on-grid market), Agricultural (18 percent) and Commercial (14 percent), with Utility and Government customers playing a smaller role. Private residential PV systems accounted for 13 percent of the market.

Despite the strength of end-market demand, which was one-third higher in Germany in the first half of 2010 than in the second half of 2009, the first PV module price increases of 2010 only emerged in June, noted Alan Turner, Vice President of European Market Research for Solarbuzz. Even then, the increases in euro terms only partially compensated for the deteriorating price picture in dollar terms caused by the euro's dramatic decline against the dollar. Such is the strength of supply growth in the PV industry.

With 770 MW newly installed capacity, Italy became the world's second largest PV market. The Czech Republic, France and Belgium combined to add 933 MW of newly installed capacity in 2009.

Growth of the total European market was just 16 percent in 2009, while growth excluding Spain was 126 percent. Solarbuzz suggsts that this growth discrepancy highlights the vulnerability of the overall market to policy review in the larger markets balanced against the growth of emerging markets.

The PV industry has gone from boom to bust and back to boom within a cycle of less than two years from the downturn in Spain late in 2008 to the current surge in Germany. On that basis, few would project stability over the next five years. The fundamental problem is the continued dependence of the industry on market incentives. Increasingly, their cost is becoming a political hot potato when programs overshoot their planned scale.

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