Photovoltaic Industry Faces Regulation for “Net Zero” Industry – Euractiv FR

Industrial policy ministers from the EU’s 27 member states are expected to discuss the European Commission’s proposal to regulate the net-zero industry on Thursday (7 December). The PV industry said it was very concerned about the progress of the debates.

Ahead of the meeting, several photovoltaic industry representatives warned that the version of the regulation adopted by the European Parliament could jeopardize Europe’s renewable energy targets, as the text is expected to largely exclude solar panels made in China, which nevertheless represent 78% of global production.

“By imposing strict ‘local content’ requirements in the net-zero industry regulation, Europe could undo the Green Deal and would greatly damage its own credibility in this area. Carsten Pfeiffer, head of company strategy and policy “Bundesverband Neue Energiewirtschaft” (BNE), German Association for Renewable Energy Sources.

“(Certain parts needed for PV) mass-produced and cheap in China would be largely excluded from European tenders overnight”he added, referring to new conditions incorporated by the European Parliament into its version of the text, which state that parts made in China must not exceed 50% of the total green technology content sold in Europe.

In a letter sent to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, the BNE highlighted that more than 90% of jobs in the European solar energy sector are related to planning and installation, while the production of specific parts only accounts for a small share of jobs, as manufacturing has largely left Europe in 2010.

They therefore call on the government to refuse “hard protectionism” promoted by the European Parliament.

Similar statements were made by the SolarPower Europe association, which represents both solar panel manufacturers and installers.

The pre-selection criteria proposed in public procurement would be “a danger to the photovoltaic sector and to those committed to energy security and European climate goals”said Dries Acke, Director of Public Policy at SolarPower Europe, in a press release.

“Two things can be true at the same time: we need to work harder to support European solar production, and Europe needs to be part of a globalized supply chain to achieve its climate and energy goals.he added.

60% European content

The criteria proposed by the European Parliament would not apply to solar panels installed in private homes. On the other hand, Chinese products would be excluded from public tenders for large renewable energy projects, such as solar energy farms, which are at the heart of Europe’s energy bet.

Such a proposal, known as the “anti-China” clause, has been put forward by the French Renaissance MEPs, members of the European Parliament’s Renew group, who are quite openly trying to make this new regulation a “Buy European Act”.

“If we are not able to defend the principle of ‘European content’, we will work for the King of Prussia (…) and our factories will close»confirmed Tuesday (5 December) Bruno Le Maire during a conference in Bercy.

“I will continue to push very strongly for 60% European content in public contracts, in the installation of offshore wind farms or in the equipment of vehicle fleets, otherwise no public support will be possible”he added.

Contacted by Euractiv, Mr Le Maire’s office confirmed that the 60% target was in the nature of “policy” without being a red line in Europe’s “net zero” regulation negotiations.

The German Ministry of Economy and Climate did not want to answer our questions.

A specific approach

In its original proposal, the European Commission proposed that 40% of green technologies be produced in Europe by 2030, but this was not a condition for the use of subsidies.

While the proposal does not currently distinguish between the various technologies covered, representatives of the solar energy industry would like the specific characteristics of their industry to be taken into account.

“European production of (photovoltaic) cells would cover demand in Germany for just one month, and module production would cover around 10% of new installations in the EU, mostly with original solar cells.said Mr Pfeiffer, referring to recent statistics from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

“We very much hope that Council members will make the market more realistic”he said, adding that “the solution is a technologically specific approach to the setting and gradual introduction of pre-selection criteria for public auctions of photovoltaic systems”.

After the adoption of a common position among the EU member states, the Council and the Parliament will have to agree on the final version of the regulation as part of the so-called negotiations. “Trilogy”which brings together the three main European institutions.

(Editing by Théo Bourgery-Gonse & Anne-Sophie Gayet)

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