EU solar markets to gain from Fukushima

April 18, 2011 at 11:58 AM
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ROME, April 18 (UPI) -- The European solar energy industry could benefit from Japan's nuclear crisis, market research firm IHS iSuppli has said.

"Though the effects of the Fukushima nuclear crisis could not be immediately quantified on the PV industries of the two countries, reaction was swift on both ends," Henning Wicht, iSuppli's senior photovoltaic analyst, wrote in a research note.

"Germany responded quickly by shutting down seven of its oldest reactors, while Italy indicated it might upgrade the role of solar within the country and accept higher volumes of sun-powered energy."

Wicht said that it will be clearer by the third quarter of 2011 whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government would proceed with dropping nuclear power in favor of a greater share of renewables in the German energy mix.

Merkel said Friday she wants to drop nuclear power as quickly as possible as a response to the crisis in Japan.

Her government will decide by mid-June how long the country's 17 nuclear power reactors are allowed to remain online and how that decision will shape the future German energy mix.

Wind power generated on land and offshore will be one of the main pillars of Germany's new energy mix, Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said, but solar power is to profit as well, Wicht said.

"An effective PV measure would be to increase the annual installation target from 3.5 gigawatts to 5 GW, which would provide a boost to the market beyond 2012, IHS iSuppli research indicates," Wicht writes.

PV installations in Germany in 2011 are projected to reach 7.2 GW after a moderate first and third quarter, alternating with very strong second and fourth quarters, IHS iSuppli noted.

Italy held its plans for new nuclear power stations during the next year to re-evaluate the role of the controversial energy source.

Only eight days before the earthquake and the tsunami hit Japan, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government has announced plans to change the solar power subsidy scheme. It's unsure how the changes will look but the solar industry in Italy has been concerned by reports of an installation cap and is trying to convince Rome that solar energy is important for Italy.

"With both sides at loggerheads, the pressure created by the solar lobby in Italy likely will force the government to reconsider its new plans so that they do not push through," IHS iSuppli says. "Furthermore, the Fukushima incident will lead to a new assessment of nuclear and solar energy in the country."

The researchers estimate Italy's new PB installations to reach 4.1 GW this year -- not including the possible effects of the Japan crisis in the months to come.

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