Japan’s Nuclear Disaster Raises Europe’s Renewable Energy Forecast
Solar UP, Nuclear waaaaaaay DOWN
According to Henning Wicht, senior director and principal analyst for photovoltaic (PV) systems at IHS, Germany has shut down seven of its oldest nuclear reactors due to the Fukushima, Japan nuclear crisis, which could potentially raise the possibilities for renewable energy.
In the wake of the Japanese disaster, debate quickly flared on an appropriate course of action and energy policy in Germany, although some of the response was thought to be political posturing and an attempt to influence forthcoming regional elections. By the third quarter of 2011, it will be apparent whether the German government will proceed with a rapid exit path from nuclear power and an even stronger promotion of renewable energy than they have now.
Wind dominates current public discussions but solar energy could benefit as well. One possible course of action that could benefit the solar industry would boost the annual PV installation forecast. Germany likely could increase the annual PV installation target for after 2010 to 5 gigawatts (GW), up from 3.5GW at the present time, increasing the long-term outlook for solar.
Despite the potential impact on the long-term outlook, PV installations in Germany in 2011 are expected to follow a similar pattern to that of 2010. The exception would be a four-week delay this year because prices didn’t fall fast enough to enable investment conditions for the German market to take off. Installation growth will accelerate in April and then peak in June, followed by a cooling-down period in the third quarter. The fourth quarter of 2011 is expected to be strong again, just before new regulations and feed-in tariffs (FiT) are applied in 2012, according to IHS iSuppli research.
All told, PV installations in Germany in 2011 are projected to reach 7.2GW, down 3.5% from 7.4GW in 2010. Growth this year will oscillate, with moderate expansions in the first and third quarters alternating with very strong increases in the second and fourth quarters.
In Italy, the government announced a hold on all plans for future nuclear power stations during the next 12 months while it re-evaluates the role of atomic energy for the country. Ironically, this has occurred at a time when PV demand in Italy has come to a near halt because of the government’s actions.
The Italian government’s announcement on 3 March 2011—eight days prior to the Japanese disaster—that it would launch a new FiT program with fewer incentives by early June came as a shock to the local solar industry, causing installation activity to stop immediately. Solar investors in Italy expressed concerns about not being able to meet the end-of-May deadline for any PV installations that they were to undertake, for fear of running afoul of the expected new guidelines. According to unofficial reports, the annual cap would be placed at 1GW, and ground installations on farmland would be limited to just 1 megawatt (MW) in size.
As a result, installation activity that was at a significant level in January and February for large Italian solar plants has all but stopped, and the only projects continuing at this point are those that are almost finished. Meanwhile, resistance to the government’s new plans has gained significant momentum, even though Rome has yet to negotiate the final scheme, expected sometime in mid-April.
With both sides at loggerheads, the pressure created by the solar lobby in Italy likely will likely force the government to reconsider its plans so that they do not push through, IHS believes. Furthermore, the Fukushima incident likely will lead to a new assessment of nuclear and solar energy in the country. Not including the possible effect of the Japan crisis in the months to come, the Italian PV market is expected to develop very positively in 2011, with an expected cap of 1.5GW to 2.0GW from 2012 onward.