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Photovoltaic (PV) technology has the potential to make a major contribution to future sustainable energy supply around the world. Today, applications of the technology are increasing, but to achieve its full potential a coherent research, development and deployment strategy is required. The vision report presented at this conference outlines the realistic potential for PV and an approach for achieving this vision for 2030 and beyond. Central to this is the need to establish a European Technology Platform to coordinate and implement research and deployment activities for PV over the long term. The authors of the report, A Vision for PV for 2030, are a group of leading European PV stakeholders with the mission to develop a world-class, cost-competitive European PV industry that can provide major economic and environmental benefits for Europe.
Future vision for PV:
28 September 2004, Charlemagne Building, Brussels, Belgium
“In the future PV can deliver electricity on a large scale and at the right price,” claimed Pablo Fernandez Ruiz of the European Commission’s Research DG in his opening speech to the conference. “Clean, safe and affordable energy should be available to all citizens.” The development of PV technology and a strong and competitive European industry will support European policy initiatives both in terms of energy policy for security and diversity of supply, and international commitments to climate change, sustainable development and fight against poverty. He thanked the PV-TRAC members for their hard work in producing the document since the group was set up in December 2003 by European Commissioners Loyola de Palacio and Philippe Busquin.
Emiliano Perezagua, chair of PV-TRAC, underlined the commitment that led to the vision document: “Six PV-TRAC meetings and sixteen drafts of the report in ten months!” Stakeholders from industry, research, utilities, the construction industry, and government had all played their part. “Our vision is based on realistic figures and concepts,” he stated, which shows the way forward to “a cost-competitive European PV sector”. The report defines key areas, key concepts and key priorities to give a common vision. He explained that ”the PV Technology Platform is a process that is open, flexible and based on communication and joint efforts where researchers, industry and policy-makers work together to secure PV as a major component of renewable energy in the future”.
This view was reinforced by François Demarcq, vice-chair of PV-TRAC, who explained that the vision outlined in the report welcomed current policy initiatives at global, European and national levels. It covered all PV technologies, systems and applications, whether stand-alone or grid-connected, presenting technical targets for a technology “based on abundant and non-toxic materials”, supplying at least 4% of the world electricity at a competitive price “equivalent to today’s combined electricity consumption of France and Germany.” The economic benefits of a world-class PV industry in Europe would be immense – “200 000 to 400 000 new jobs could be created across Europe”, claimed Mr Demarcq. 2030 is considered an important milestone in the vision but given the right momentum, PV contribution to electricity production will continue to grow steadily beyond 2030.
Philippe Busquin, the former European Commissioner for Research and now Belgian member of the European Parliament’s ITRE committee (Industry, Research and Energy), warmly welcomed the vision report and recommended that it be disseminated as widely as possible. Mr Busquin believes that “the technology platforms concept will become the basis for industrial policy in the EU”. PV could help eradicate poverty by bringing electricity to remote villages, it could create jobs in Europe, and it would be at the heart of future sustainable energy policy.
Strong support from the PV industry was underlined by Winfred Hoffmann, President of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association, who said that the vision accommodated the different needs and timescales of European industry, science and policy-makers, for mutual benefit. He also emphasised the very large and long-term investment that would be required of industry to meet the targets set for 2030, and called for increased European funding for research and further pan-European initiatives to encourage the PV market.
Professor Nicola Pearsall, Vice-President of the European Renewable Energy Centers (EUREC) Agency , expanded on the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) outlined in the report. “The goals set in the SRA should not prejudice any particular technology,” she said, “but the goals need to be regularly reviewed and revised.” “This would provide the basis for technical decisions”, she continued, adding that “the Technology Platform would offer the continuity for long-term research that was often lacking”.
Advice on organising a Technology Platform was given by Jeremy Bentham, CEO of Shell Hydrogen and chairman of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform Advisory Council. His experience was very positive. The combination of addressing technical challenges and deployment issues in one forum was very inspiring for all stakeholders. Transparency in operation was essential, as was the establishment of a “Mirror” group to link with national programmes. A dedicated and pro-active secretariat to ensure decisions are carried out and different strands drawn together was at the heart of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Platform. But the most important factor was the enthusiasm and dedication of the stakeholders – they truly needed to provide “the energy for a better future”.
In the afternoon, the conference split into three parallel sessions to examine aspects of the role of industry, the research agenda and policy instruments. There was consensus on the need for a Technology Platform and broad agreement with the substance of the vision report. Wide consultation will be a feature of the Platform as it works on the Strategic Research Agenda and implementation plans. Various useful points which were raised by delegates will be incorporated in the debate and future action plans.
The conference was closed by Alfonso Gonzalez Finat of the Directorate-General for Transport and Energy who endorsed the initiative and emphasised its importance to the overall European strategy on future sustainable and secure energy supply.
Then the chairman of the PV-TRAC thanked the delegates for their hard work and looked forward to their future participation in this crucial effort to sustain European competitiveness in this emerging and increasingly important energy sector – the establishment of a European Technology Platform for Photovoltaics.
Copies of the vision report: ‘ A Vision for Photovoltaic Technology’