Photovoltaic services transform uses

electricity consumption, energy efficiency, energy 3.0, renewable energy, photovoltaic

The European market for photovoltaic technology is slightly shrinking, as 10% fewer solar panels were installed during the first quarter of 2014 than during the first quarter of 2013. However, demand for photovoltaic solutions in France and Europe remains significant. Manufacturers adapt to market shortcomings by offering a wider range of products as well as new services to those willing to go solar.

The French want a green energy future

Over the years, the development of clean energy sources has had key implications, both in economic and ecological terms. According to a CSA poll conducted in France in March 2014, 87% of respondents think energy policies affect their lives and that a balanced energy mix is necessary. Photovoltaic energy proves to be an attractive environmentally friendly alternative. The survey shows that 65% of the French are willing to invest in renewables and that 38% would choose photovoltaic energy, while 27% would opt for wind power.

The attractiveness of solar energy needs to be taken into account by policy makers willing to encourage this trend.

European photovoltaic industry responds to competition

German photovoltaic manufacturing companies SolonSE, Solar Millennium AG, Solarhybrid AG and Q-Cells were all leaders in the marketplace before filing for bankruptcy. Their fate is symbolic of the challenges faced by the European photovoltaic industry. There are various reasons for these failures, including cuts in public subsidies from 2010 onwards and increased foreign competition, especially from China where the government has been providing its domestic industry with cheap loans, which resulted in a 30 to 40% drop in the price of Chinese solar panels in 2011 and strong market share gains for the Chinese industry, from about 30% in 2008 to around 80% in 2014. On the other hand, this situation has made photovoltaic more affordable and boosted the solar industry.

In order to face competition and to foster the expansion of solar energy, the European industry has started to diversify its activities.

New services to shape new uses

The remaining solar technology manufacturers strive to prove that photovoltaic is beneficial and profitable, for various reasons: panels do not need maintenance as they are self-cleaning (by use of rain), they are sturdy, waterproof (roof panels), dependable and allow for an attractive comfort level in the home.

Several information programmes seek to inform on and advertise photovoltaic solutions. For instance, Rexel’s Energeasy programme walks users through the whole process, from energy audits to installation and use. The application offers energy generation simulation services and connects businesses or households willing to invest in photovoltaic with installers. The multi-protocol programme enables users to combine products from various window, roof or boiler manufacturers, and provides use-centred rather than product-centred models.

Such comprehensive service ranges (from photovoltaic energy generation simulations to funding solutions and paperwork management) are necessary for solar technology to overcome barriers and become mainstream.

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