epia logoSolar industry leaders gathered in Brussels this week for the Annual General Meeting of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA). The goal: identify challenges to solar PV growth and decide on ways to overcome those in order to keep advancing solar power across the continent.

Of course, one focus was how to guarantee a more stable policy environment for solar. Europe has benefited from some big solar installation booms, but it has also suffered from sudden incentive cuts. Trying to find a way to avoid that has become a priority of EPIA (well, it has probably been a priority for a long time now).

Solar PV innovation and “proper integration of solar PV into the electricity grid” were other priorities. Regarding the latter, it’s clear that solar PV is reaching relatively high penetration levels in some countries — however, it represents an entirely different type of grid than the baseload-based grid that utilities have been using for decades. It provides some key energy security and reliability benefits to the grid, but such a shift is also a challenge. Relatively non-responsive energy sources such as nuclear and coal don’t fit so well with solar, whereas wind, natural gas, energy storage, and demand-response technologies do. Additionally, more extensive and connected transmission is useful in a high-penetration solar grid. I imagine these are the types of things that were under discussion in the EPIA meeting.

EPIA noted that its members, which span the PV value chain, approved the following measures for priority in 2013 and beyond:

  • Ensure a reliable political framework and support schemes for PV and renewables that will lead the sector to long-term competitiveness.
  • Focus on integrating a rising share of PV into the electricity grid, and shaping a future market design that removes bottlenecks to the technology’s development.
  • Provide essential market analysis and data.
  • Push for an EU industrial policy, and drive innovation and research for PV.

There were also a few vacancies on the EPIA board, so the general assembly elected 3 new members:

  • Jodie Roussell has been elected as an EPIA Vice-President. Ms. Roussell is Director of Public Affairs, Europe, Trina Solar AG.
  • Christian Westermeier has been elected as an EPIA Director. Dr. Westermeier is Vice President Sales, Marketing & Application Engineering, Wacker Chemie AG.
  • Milan Nitzschke has been elected as an EPIA Director. Mr. Nitzschke is Vice President and spokesman, SolarWorld AG

A full board election is scheduled for 2014, at which these new board members (and the others) could be replaced.

“It is clear that PV is approaching full competitiveness with other electricity sources,” said EPIA President Winfried Hoffmann. “But in the context of a wider energy transition, PV’s development will remain policydriven in the coming years – very much like all other electricity producing technologies. Financial support, administrative procedures and grid integration remain crucial issues.”

Mr Hoffman also noted the important role solar PV plays in a more decentralized electricity grid, and he discussed efforts to make solar manufacturing more competitive and profitable in Europe.

Hans-Josef Fell, a member of the Green Party in the German Parliament, gave the keynote address at the meeting.