Formerly dynamic sectors of the European economy are currently in the grips of a deep economic recession. The steadily rising oil prices, however, are giving a serious boost to renewable energy sources (RES) not only in the Southeast Europe, but on a global level.
Climate change, environmental pollution and the gradually increasing energy demand on a global level have made imperative the need to turn to environmentally friendly technologies exploiting the planet’s inexhaustible natural sources, such as the sun and the wind. The immediate adoption of a “green” development model has become a worldwide approach and a “one-way road” for a sustainable environment. RES technologies, though, and in particular photovoltaic technology, are a big business opportunity that must be exploited. The photovoltaic sector is exhibiting signs of steep growth worldwide, is creating new jobs, making thousands of enterprises viable, offering benefits to investors, attracting foreign investment capitals in countries in dire need, and transforming the crisis into an opportunity contributing essentially to the strengthening of each and every economy.
The increase in installed photovoltaic systems on an international level was unprecedented in 2011, creating the impression of a dynamically developing energy sector. The increase in photovoltaic systems is based, on the one hand, on the fact that more and more countries are turning to the exploitation of renewable solar energy and, on the other, on the development of technology that decisively improves the efficiency of the specific systems. Although the solar market in South Eastern Europe is still small, it is growing rapidly and it has a great potential to become a considerable part of the RES market.
Despite the fact that it has been experiencing major social and economic crisis, Greece has realised that “green development” and the exploitation of environmentally friendly technologies is perhaps the most important development model in order to strengthen the country’s entrepreneurship and boost the economy.
The Greek market is focusing on the flourishing photovoltaic sector and has, as a result, quite a favourable legislative framework. For example, it has set an important goal for the implementation of projects up to 2020, thus creating the proper conditions for the healthy development of the market. Interestingly, the financial sector, while battling an unprecedented crisis, continues supporting these investments to whatever extent possible, and domestic and foreign investors continue to show steady interest. At the same time more and more enterprises are starting their operations by investing in the sector, while enterprises with a related operation are expanding and investing in human resources and infrastructures in order to acquire their own share in this dynamically developing market. For example, the country has currently five manufacturing facilities producing quality products (photovoltaic panels) and a considerable number of reliable EPCs and installers with high-level know-how and experience in the implementation of photovoltaic projects.
Greece today is clearly the leader in the corresponding photovoltaic markets of south-eastern Europe. Among the countries of the region already having a basic framework for the exploitation of the specific technology, such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Rumania and Turkey, Greece plays a leading role at all levels, with projects of considerable scale (about 400 new MWp were installed in 2011). The national development target promises a significant market of approximately 300–500 MW annually, compared to the above markets that are still at a very early development stage. Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania have set a target of installed capacity of 303, 192 and 260 MWp respectively by 2020. The currently implemented projects are small and rare, whereas Greece, in the midst of a crisis, ranks 10th worldwide in newly installed capacity in 2011. Furthermore, the country has one of the best legislative frameworks internationally for the installation of residential photovoltaic systems, giving the opportunity to the simple citizen to proceed to a healthy investment which, apart from the economic benefit, it also benefits the society and the environment.
Bulgaria is also expected to show a high growth in the solar sector among the south-eastern European countries, having installed some 80–100 MWp in 2011. Although the Bulgarian government is considering changes in the support scheme, feed-in tariff levels are among the highest in Europe and the country is considered one of the best destinations for investments. In addition, the country has initiated programmes for direct financial support of the solar power plants development. In just three years since 2008, Bulgarian solar business progressed at a fast pace and was ranked 22nd amongst 100 countries in solar indices for August 2011 with Ernst & Young’s renewable country attractiveness indices.
The Cypriot photovoltaic market has not shown significant growth until now, although it has the highest irradiation levels among European countries. Solar energy in Cyprus could easily satisfy the overall demand of the country (according to estimations, a three billion euro investment would be enough to cover the country’s demand). Although the Cypriot government has reduced the level of support for PV, current feed-in tariffs are still delivering viable projects. Cyprus has an untapped solar potential and could deliver more in the coming years. Recently, according to an announcement, the University of Cyprus revealed its plans for developing a 10 MW PV power plant on university-owned land.
No doubt, Turkey has an excellent solar potential. The country can thus become an important market for the photovoltaic sector, although it is still in an early stage as it obtained a feedin tariff late in 2010 and faced a lot of delays in regulating the market. The installed capacity is still insignificant although considerable development (in the order of 200–300 MW per year) is expected in the coming years. Its current law mainly supports the installation of large-scale systems and many large companies are showing high interest in solar park investments. Due to the nature of the support scheme in Turkey, almost all systems (99%) are expected to be in the MW-size projects.
Romania is a new entrant in the renewable energy sector and, despite the fact that solar energy was not fully exploited during 2010 and 2011, the market is promising, as it has 210 sunny days through the year. Romania does not have a feed-in-tariff system in place, but supports renewable energy through a Green Certificate system. This scheme however is more complicated than feed-in tariffs and more risky for investors. Certificates are assigned for 15 years. Renewable investments are underpinned through this mechanism. Although Romania’s installed PV capacity is still insignificant, considerable development is expected as of 2012 (in the order of a couple hundreds of MW). The country’s target for 2020 is 20 percent RES in energy consumption. Currently about 50 Solar Projects are in the Construction Stage which entail investments of around EUR 500 million. According to current incentive policies, Romania along with Bulgaria, is expected to face high growth rates among the smaller markets over the next one to two years.
Serbia is also among the new emerging countries for the years to come. Though the average solar radiation in Serbia is about 40 percent greater than the European average, the market is still in infancy stage compared to most of the other countries of the European Union. Only a few small solar projects exist here and there. Serbia has however gargantuan plans. The country has signed a non-binding agreement with Securum Equity Partners for the development of a 1 GWp solar PV park and if this solar park complex is developed, it will be the largest of its kind in the world. The country is also currently planning the construction of two 150 MWp plants carried out between 2013 and 2015.
Despite the fact that Ukraine is a country with favourable tax climate and a high feed-in tariff, only seven MW of solar capacity had been installed before the development of a large 80 MWp plant in 2011 (Ukraine has now a total installed capacity of 140 MWp). Had Ukraine introduced less bureaucratic processes, it would become a highly attractive market for investors, especially for the large projects which are usually investments of major financial institutions that require simple and clear procedures. So the faster the regulations become simpler, the sooner the investors will consider the market as a place to be.
Slovakia is considered by EPIA (the European Photovoltaic Industry Association) a key market in Europe. At the end of 2011 the country had a 500 MWp cumulative installed capacity. Slovakia owns its growth to its effective PV support mechanism but its PV connections slammed to a halt after a pullback on PV support. A look ahead As tariffs follow PV equipment prices downward, less public funding is needed in order to build mature and promising markets. As solar energy gets more competitive with retail electricity prices, investors will become less dependent on public funding schemes. As a result, new markets are emerging, and southeastern Europe is becoming a place to go to for business in the sector.
In 2011, some 27.7 GWp of new photovoltaic capacity was installed worldwide, with Europe playing a leading role. In 2011, the leading country was Italy, where 9 new GWp were connected to the grid, while in the second place we find the locomotive of the sector, Germany (with 7.5 GWp). China is entering the solar energy sector dynamically (2 GWp), followed by the USA (1.6 GWp). France completes the European top three places (1.5 GWp); Japan, the land of the rising sun, was also there (1.1 GWp), while impressive was the debut of the UK which introduced feed-in tariffs only recently (700 MWp).
Positive Energy offers integrated solutions for the building and commissioning of photovoltaic parks, which include selecting the ideal location, as well as the design, construction, management, operation, maintenance and security of each project. Its activities include the construction and operation of turnkey photovoltaic projects on industrial roofs, green field sites and residential properties.
The company has currently a project portfolio in Greece and Bulgaria exceeding 50 MWp and a forward looking pipeline of 70 MWp. Its initial focus is in the photovoltaic market. It has set up many strategic partnerships to accelerate growth.
Positive Group integrated the company Build-IT to provide converged services for active monitoring and control of “intelligent assets” around the world. Based on its experience from large scale photovoltaic projects throughout Greece and the profound know-how technology developed during its 20-year background on the design and development of turnkey solutions, Positive Group is dynamically expanding its range of activities and, in cooperation with a Greek pioneering company of the Green ICT domain, setting new objectives for further dynamic development in Greek and international markets.
Article by Konstantinos Mavros