• Client: European Commission - DG Research & Innovation (RTD)
  • Implementation period: 2016 - 2017 (Completed)
  • Geographic coverage: European Union

Can the European solar PV industry regain its leading position?

This report discusses the current state of the European and global photovoltaics sector along the value chain and identifies opportunities to revive the European PV industry.

In particular, the study aimed to:
– Identify the main European and global actors along the value and assess their market share, strategies, strengths and weaknesses;
– Assess the impact of the framework conditions on the competitive position of the European industry;
– Develop potential strategies for rebuilding the European manufacturing capacities;
– Devise concrete policy measures for implementing such a strategy.

Cost estimates of a multi-crystalline silicon PV module supply chain in selected countries

Key findings of the study can be summarised as follows:

  • While Europe has lost considerable market share, a significant industry remains with an estimated annual turnover of EUR 5 billion. The remaining industry consists for a large part of equipment manufacturers (63% of EU turnover) and inverter manufacturers (20% of EU turnover).
  • The framework conditions result in relatively high costs for inputs such as labour, energy, materials and equipment, which is most important for the mass-production of polysilicon, wafers, cells and modules. The more knowledge-intensive equipment and inverter manufacturing industries are less affected by these framework conditions and can benefit from a skilled labour force and strong research infrastructure.
  • Promising opportunities for reindustrialisation exist by deploying a strategy focused on tailored PV products, knowledge-intensive parts of the value chain, and the commercialisation of novel technologies. Such a strategy could be implemented by a set of nine policy measures that target demand, supply, RD&I and trade related aspects. These measures appear to be feasible but require a coordinated effort to be successful.
  • DG GROW, DG ENER and DG RTD would be best positioned to lead the strategy but would require committed leadership from the industry and the financial sector. A concerted effort to rebuild the industry could be justified as it contributes to EU objectives such as economic growth, leadership in renewable energy technologies and security of supply.