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French PV Market: Uncertainty Remains

Jean-Marc Scolari, Directeur General, Fronius France, talks about the current status of the PV market in France and the recent regulatory changes.

Reported by Jeanny H. Lim (swied@infothe.com) 


What is the status and latest information about PV policies in France?

Compared to 2010 and since the introduction of the new FiTs in March 2011 with an annual cap of 500 MW and an additional quaterly-based reduction of FiTs, directly related to the volume of requested PV projects, the French PV market has radically changed. In the meantime, 2011 was overall a good year with approx. 1 GW of installed PV power (France has now overall approx. 2 GW of cumulated PV power). This was possible due to the quite big amount of projects with former FiTs.


What is the market and installation forecast for 2012?

The current forecast in France for 2012 is approx. 750 MW. At this point, it’s not quite sure if this capacity will be installed due to the very negative impact of the quaterly reduction of FiTs. Another factor which must be considered will be the outcome of the presidential election in 2012 in France. This will slow down the activities as long as French PV players haven’t got the information about the next president and related to this the PV incentive program for the near future. In the meantime, the overall expectations are quite bad among the PV specialists in France.


What are the opportunities for residential and commercial PV installations in France?

The FiTs are still attractive (Cts 38,80/kWh) for the residential market. As in this segment, France is pushing the roof-integrated solutions with special FiTs, there are still good opportunities for high-quality technical solutions. As the RT 2012 (New norm related to low consumption buildings) will be effective, the PV as renewable and sustainable energy is still a very good alternative in order to optimize the energy consumption balance of buildings. A lot of French companies concretely implement this strategy as they couldn’t compete against Asian-made products and solutions.

The tender procedure for installations above 100 kW makes it now very hard to work on commercial PV installations. It definitely slows down this segment in France as a lot of companies working in this power range stopped working on these projects due to the very long and administrative work and uncertain result of these tenders.


What makes France an attractive PV market?

The recent surveys show that PV has a very good image in France despite the high percentage of nuclear power in the French energy mix and the FiTs for the segment residential to commercial installations up to 100 kW are still attractive.

France is having the second (after the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany) most important solar research & development laboratory. More than 400 engineers are working within the INES (Institut National de l’Energie Solaire) in order to find out new solutions for future PV applications (High efficency pv cells).

France has, among other countries, defined the target that renewables will produce 23% of the total energy production. PV will and must find the right place among the other renewables.

Finally, the solar radiation level is quite good and offers in the south of France the best chances to reach grid parity in the next years.


How will global PV industry dynamics impact the French market development?

We’ve been confronted in France (as other European PV markets) with a huge reduction of FiTs (and an annual cap of 500 MW) and a parallel overstock of PV products (modules and inverters). This has led to a deep change of the relation of Customer/Manufacturer. Our French minister for environment confronted the PV professionals with the fact that 90% of the panels installed in France are imported from Asia. This is, of course, not true, but it shows the real trend in the last 12 months. The French PV market is still a very young one, but the price pressure for the manufacturers, integrators and dealers are quite similar to Germany, for instance. As a consequence, it’s very hard for the French module manufacturer (actually 12) to compete on a price level with bigger companies like Suntech with huge production capacities.

The slowdown of the French PV market due to the radical change of PV policies won’t enable the French industry to build up a real and strong technology-oriented French network which could compete with other international competitors in the export market. This must change if France wants to play a key role around the world in the future.


How is Fronius’ business in France shaping up and what is your strategy for the market?

Fronius France, like other French market players, has faced a quite difficult period in 2011 with a reduction of our overall activities due to the radical change of PV policies at the end of 2010.

Our strategy is quite clear for 2012: as a quality leader, we want to reinforce our services to our customers because we strongly believe that this is the only effective approach for a sustainable relationship with our partners. We are also quite confident that the launch of new products will reinforce the position of Fronius in the different market segments.


Jeanny H. Lim is Editor-in-Chief of InterPV. Send your comments to swied@infothe.com.



For more information, please send your e-mails to pved@infothe.com.

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