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Policy changes have slowed down EU solar market growth

Newly installed solar power capacity in the EU fell 32% last year as policy changes and competition form other energy sources continued to undermine the sector’s development. The 6.9GW in new capacity added in 2014 was down from 10GW in 2013 and 22GW in 2011, research institute Eurobserv’Er said. By contrast, the global solar market continued to grow, fuelled mainly by Asia (with China alone adding another 10.560 MW of capacity in 2014).

“The main legislative aim of a number of member states is to implement retroactive measures in their production support system to reduce the price of their electricity bill,” Eurobserv’Er sais in its recent report, noting retroactive measures introduced in Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic. Italy reduced feed-in-tariffs from the start of this year and has also applied cuts to existing contracts.

Other measures that have hit the European solar sector include increasing taxes on self-consumed electricity, such as in Germany and Italy. Researchers have warned that the generalisation and trivialisation of these measures could create a long-term obstacle to the re-launch of the European solar market. Germany no longer leads the EU PV market due to new policies such as reducing the surcharge that finances renewable energy development in the country and cutting feed-in tariffs.The UK topped the EU market for new installations for the first time in 2014, with more than 2.4GW installed compared with just over 1GW the year before.

However, growth in the UK and also France, solar markets that had historically lagged behind countries such as Germany, Italy, Greece and Belgium, was “too weak to revive the market that has been in free-fall since 2012”. At European level, the report said the renewables market needs further policy support. For solar, a “pre-defined legal framework” will be “indispensible to the development of self-consumption and grid installation is taking much longer than expected”.

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Issue 42