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A vision for PV Technology

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Background

The implementation of photovoltaics as a source of electricity in Europe and the development of a strong European photovoltaic (PV) sector are important steps towards achieving the European policy goals of increased security of energy supply, reduction of greenhouse gases and sustainable development.

Both the worldwide and the European PV markets have grown at an average annual rate of approximately 35% over the past five years, and at the beginning of 2004, 562 MWp were installed in Europe. Although this growth has been remarkable, Europe cannot afford to be complacent. In terms of manufacturing, almost half (47.9%) of the photovoltaic cells produced worldwide in 2003 were produced in Japan. Europe comes in at second place, with 26.5% of worldwide production, and the United States is third with 14.3%. Currently, Europe is a net importer of photovoltaic cells, and production is growing faster in Japan than in Europe. In order to improve European competitiveness, the European PV sector needs to increase its research efforts and levels of market support. In terms of public spending on PV research and development, Europe spends about the same amount as Japan (58 and 59 million dollars respectively), while support for market deployment is three times higher in Japan than in Europe. Furthermore, research activities in Europe are often dispersed and less well coordinated. There is a strong need for a common European vision and strategy for photovoltaic technologies.

Defining the Vision: The role of PV-TRAC

The EU addressed this need for a common vision and strategy in December 2003, when the Photovoltaic Technology Research Advisory Council (PV-TRAC) was formed under the initiatives of Loyola de Palacio and Philippe Busquin (the former European Commissioners for Energy & Transport and Research). PV-TRAC was established as a high-level advisory council, consisting of a broad range of members who represent a balance of the major European PV stakeholders. The terms of reference of the PV-TRAC were to implement a common European vision and strategy, contributing to the rapid expansion of a world class, cost-competitive, European PV industry.

The PV-TRAC Vision report examines the current state of photovoltaics and looks ahead towards the year 2030. The PV-TRAC report forecasts that photovoltaic electricity will become competitive with conventional utility peak power in southern Europe by 2010, and in most of Europe by 2030. By then, photovoltaics could provide around 4% of electricity production worldwide.

Implementing the Vision: Establishing a Technology Platform

The establishment of a PV Technology Platform was considered by the PV-TRAC to be a crucial strategic measure to support the achievement of the PV vision for 2030. Its role will be to define, support and accompany the implementation of a coherent and comprehensive strategic plan. The Technology Platform will:

  • mobilise all actors sharing a long-term European vision for PV;
  • realise the European Strategic Research Agenda for PV for the next decade(s) and give recommendations for implementation;
  • ensure Europe maintains and improves its industrial position.

More specifically, the PV Technology Platform will:

  • implement a strategic plan to provide advice and expertise to the decision makers to allow them to make informed decisions regarding the long term potential of PV;
  • propose actions to all policy makers to help to ensure that clear, coherent priorities are established and that support is fully integrated, thereby facilitating implementation; 
  • foster joint initiatives involving stakeholders in the formulation of research programmes;
  • ensure strong links and co-ordination between industry, research and market.

Further information about the proposed structure of the Technology Platform can be found in the Vision Report. At the presentation of the report in Brussels on 28/9/04, the European Commission endorsed the recommendation to create a Photovoltaics Technology Platform. In order to set-up the Technology Platform, the Commission intends to propose the initial members of the Steering Committee, after consulting with the chair and vice-chair of the PV-TRAC. The Commission invited expressions of interest for the Steering Committee and Working Groups of the Technology Platform, with a deadline of 14th February 2005.

Further information about the PV Technology Platform can be found here .

Further Information

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