Nine out of ten Austrians are generally in favor of expanding photovoltaics (PV). At the same time, PV electricity generation in the domestic electricity mix is only around seven percent, despite high potential. The Renewable Energy Expansion Act (EAG) envisages PV electricity generation of 13 terawatt hours (TWh) by 2030, said Herbert Paierl, CEO of Photovoltaic Austria, at a press conference in Graz today, Tuesday. Currently there are just under four TWh. However, these goals are far too small: “The integrated network infrastructure plan for Austria comes to the conclusion that a total of 21 TWh from solar power will be needed by 2030,” said Paierl. If the climate goals are to be achieved and Austria is to be climate neutral by 2040, it will even be 41 TWh – a tenfold increase compared to the current level.
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In order to achieve the ambitious goals, a PV offensive is needed. The biggest current and medium-term obstacle to expansion is efficient electricity networks. For years, expansion was only based on needs. “A time and capacity-related plan must be integrated into the electricity infrastructure,” said Paierl. Every roof area must be used as technically possible. It is not true that the expansion of photovoltaics drives up the price of electricity: with storage and new technologies, it is also possible to ensure a supply of solar power in the dark season.
Raise people’s awareness
Hubert Fechner, chairman of the photovoltaics technology platform, criticized the fact that the market was dominated by products from China: “Innovation and research are needed.” This would not only make it easier to achieve national climate goals, but also lay the foundation for greater energy independence in Europe. At the same time, the competitiveness of the domestic industry would be strengthened and jobs would be created. In this context, Fechner called for priority for European PV products through a best bidder principle in public tenders and a bonus for subsidies if products of European origin are installed. At least 30 million euros annually for PV research are necessary.
The market is flooded with products from China
Florian Clement from the solar research institute Fraunhofer ISI emphasized, on the one hand, that PV expansion is flourishing in Austria and Germany: In Germany there will be a 40 percent increase in installations this year. On the other hand, the market is currently flooded with PV products from China: “The prices are 15 cents per kilowatt, which is cheaper than ever and of course good for the end consumer.” However, this dependence must be reduced. One possibility is special tenders to increase production in Europe. Market regulating measures, such as import duties, are also an option. In order to promote the production of PV modules, measures are needed at both national and European levels. This is important for resilience and competitiveness.
According to Fechner, it is also important to raise people’s awareness, especially with regard to the origin of the products: “Unlike what many people believe, there is production and knowledge in Europe, especially with regard to inverters and modules.”