16 Apr, 2024

ESIA welcomes the signing of the European Solar Charter. Europe commits to photovoltaic industry recovery.

Yesterday, on the 15th of April, Energy Ministers from 23 EU countries, along with industry representatives from the European solar sector, came together to sign the EU Solar Charter (here). The signing ceremony took place during an Informal Energy Ministerial in Brussels, where representatives from the European Solar PV Industry Alliance (ESIA) were also in attendance. The charter signifies a joint commitment from both governments and the solar sector to strengthen European solar manufacturing. The signatories of the charter are committed to maintaining the competitiveness of the European photovoltaic industry and to fostering the development of a market for premium products that meet high sustainability and resilience standards.

The European Solar PV Industry Alliance (ESIA) welcomes the EU Solar Charter which asks companies, EU Member States and to the European Commission to commit to several actions such as:

  • Further facilitate access to EU funding for solar PV manufacturing projects under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, structural funds, the Innovation Fund the Modernisation Fund, and Horizon Europe, including through the Strategic Technologies European Platform (STEP).
  • Work with the European Investment Bank to reinforce its support to investments in the solar manufacturing value chain, including through InvestEU.
  • Propose forward-looking Ecodesign and Energy Labelling regulations for solar PV products to establish, on the basis of a robust methodology, appropriate environmental and energy performance standards for the sector.
  • An early implementation of the relevant NZIA and promotion of innovative forms of solar energy deployment, such as agri-PV, floating solar, infrastructure-integrated PV, vehicle-integrated PV or building-integrated PV.
  • Explore, in cooperation with Member States through the Joint European Forum the possibility of an Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) to support innovations and their first industrial deployment in the solar PV manufacturing value chain.
  • In collaboration with Member States and social partners, facilitate the expansion of skills availability for the EU solar sector, including for manufacturing, through inter alia the Solar Academy and the Renewable Energy Skills Partnership.

Commitments and actions agreed in the charter are aligned with the recently published Action Plan developed by the ESIA for 2024 (read it here). The Alliance has put forward ten key actions to support the reshoring of the industry. It is urgent and imperative, if we are to reach our industrial ambition, to support the scaling-up of European production and to level the playing field with non-European players. There will be no business case for PV manufacturing in Europe without a targeted and coordinated effort, bringing together the industry, the European Commission, the Member States, and private and public investors like the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Within the Charter itself, the ESIA has been tasked to engage in the Member States Task Force to exchange best practices on the application of non-price criteria, provide support to the industry and to strategic projects. The Alliance stands ready to support Member States in the inclusion of transparent, non-discriminatory and objective non-price criteria in renewable energy auctions, in public procurement as well as the promotion of innovative forms of solar energy deployment, including through recommendations, guidance, and the structured dialogue.

The EU Solar Charter was signed in Brussels, at the Palais d’Egmont, and was signed by 23 Member States: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and The Netherlands. In addition, ESIA’s steering committee comprised of EIT InnoEnergy, The European Solar Manufacturing Council (ESMC) and SolarPower Europe were present to sign the Charter.

ESIA Action Plan in three main blocks

Temporary support to upscale the industry
In order to be competitive, the European manufacturing sector needs to scale-up significantly, so as to reach sufficient economies of scale. To ensure adequate speed and scale in this process and to de-risk the projects, temporary financial support should be provided through European and national instruments. This financial support should consist of a smart mix of CAPEX and OPEX support. We estimate that a total of €18-24 billion in CAPEX support and an annual amount of €4-6 billion in OPEX support are temporarily needed to achieve the ESIA target.
Capitalise on the ‘Made in Europe’ brand value
Securing offtake for the European industrial project pipeline is critical to attract investors. Capitalizing on the ‘made in Europe’ brand which is considered worth paying a small premium for by certain offtakers for European-made PV modules should be encouraged and facilitated by the European Commission and the Member States.
Implementation of non-pricing conditions to level the playing field
Without a level playing field, there will be no solid business case for European projects, no incentives for investors, and hence no possibility to reshore the PV industry. Putting sustainability, traceability, and circularity at the core of the internal market is the best way to reward sustainable best performers (wherever production takes place) while enhancing the competitive edge of European manufacturers. This starts with defining and implementing high environmental and social standards for PV products placed on the European market.

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