Solar most installed energy source in Europe in 2011

May 10, 2012 12:00 AM

The European solar market continued to grow at a breakneck pace last year, according to new figures from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), which show that solar was the most installed energy source in Europe, overtaking new wind and gas-capacity combined.
The latest report, entitled Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics Until 2016, found that installations of PV panels rose 63 % to 21.9 GW, far exceeding the 9.5 GW each of new wind farms and gas power plants added last year.

Europe also continued to dominate the global solar PV market, accounting for three-quarters of the global demand even as new installations in the US and China rose to 1.9 GW and 2.2 GW respectively.
Italy emerged as the world's largest solar market with 9.3 GW of capacity connected last year, closely followed by Germany with 7.5 GW.

However, while solar projects benefitted from falling solar panel prices the bulk of the demand was driven by generous subsidies that are now being cut across Europe.
EPIA president Dr Winfried Hoffmann said the "PV industry is now weathering a period of uncertainty in the short term" as government's finalise new subsidy regimes that many solar firms fear could result in deep cuts to incentives that will lead to a slump in demand.

However, Hoffmann insisted that in the medium to long term the outlook for the sector remains promising.
"The prospects for continued robust growth are good," he said. "The results of 2011 – and indeed the outlook for the next several years – show that under the right policy conditions PV can continue its progress towards competitiveness in key electricity markets and become a mainstream energy source."

The new figures came on the same day as reports suggested that controversial German plans to slash the level of incentives available through the country's popular renewable energy feed-in tariff scheme could yet be renegotiated.
Germany's solar trade body BSW-Solar has been campaigning against the proposed cuts, releasing the results of a new survey showing that more than half of its members have cut jobs in recent weeks, while a majority expect sales to fall by 50 % this year if the cuts are approved.

As a result, Chancellor Angela Merkel's plans to cut the feed-in tariff are under growing pressure, with according to a report that a number of states represented in Germany's upper house are blocking the proposals and arguing that they should be sent for parliamentary arbitration.
The negotiations are on-going, but the states are keen to secure some concessions from the government amid rising fears of job losses further fuelled by a number of high-profile German solar firms recently filing for bankruptcy.

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