"We no longer need feed-in tariffs"
As promised last week, we will be publishing a series of brief statements by top solar executives this week on what the market holds in store for us this year. We begin with a round of statements from the photovoltaics sector collected by our Heiko Schwarzburger.
Ralf Klein, Vertriebsvorstand bei der Centrosolar AG
Consolidation will continue this year within the solar sector. Centrosolar will continue to make solar panels at its plant in Wismar this year. We remain committed to Germany as a business environment. Our goal is to win over the customers who are aware of quality but are left behind by players exiting the market so we can grow our market share. Thanks to our position as an all-in-one shop and thanks to our sales network in Europe, we believe we are well prepared as the market changes towards direct consumption.
Michael Harre, vice president and head of LG Electronics' solar division
The photovoltaic sector is currently undergoing a very difficult time economically. Whoever makes it faces a great future. Solar cells and panels are becoming everyday products, including in combination with batteries. This will soon be taken for granted in a lot of industries and areas of life. Margins and profits will shrink, but greater revenue will make the necessary investments pay for themselves.
The Asian market is split in two. In Japan, we expect great growth, especially for solar arrays connected to the grid to stabilize supply. The same also holds true for India and parts of China. In addition, off-grid solar arrays will increasingly become important, such as in China, India, and Thailand. In these countries, the goal is to provide sufficient amounts of affordable energy. Photovoltaics will speed up power connections for millions of people who currently do without. In South Africa, North Africa, and South America, photovoltaics will also become widespread. Brazil has severe bottlenecks in its power supply, and photovoltaics can cover the growing energy demand.
Joachim Simonis, Managing Director at Talesun
This year will be hard to predict. The German market could shrink down to three or four gigawatts. Mainly, smaller roof arrays will be built, and direct consumption will be crucial along with power storage. Most storage systems using lithium batteries will not be available until mid-2013. I do not believe that lead batteries are the ideal solution. Depending on the system size, the problem is transporting and setting them up. China has to invest in renewables because its coal power is becoming more expensive. The country also needs inexpensive power for its future electric vehicles. On the other hand, the gap in wage costs is no longer as great. And this factor does not play a major role in the fully automated production of solar cells and panels anyway.
If we take account of all of the costs, Europe has reached grid parity with nuclear and coal power – or is about to. We therefore no longer need feed-in tariffs. But we do need the priority grid access ensured by the Renewable Energy Act. The market will take care of everything else on its own. The further growth of photovoltaics largely depends upon power prices. Conventional power is becoming more expensive in Germany and Italy, as is coal power in Greece, where an old law stipulated that Greek power plants could receive coal for free. This law expires in 2013. In a year and a half, we will be talking about completely different solar markets. The focus will then mainly be on direct consumption and power trading.