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Growing PV pipelines across Europe await policy support
by Josefin Berg, senior analyst, IHS Markit
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Sep 05, 2016

File image.

The demand for ground-mount photovoltaic (PV) capacity in Europe will decline by 40 percent in 2016 over the previous year, but recovery is expected after 2018. Part of this recovery will take place through future demand in currently non-existing markets.

IHS Markit has observed an evolution of ground-mount PV pipelines in European markets without explicit support for such projects, including Ireland, Spain and Portugal. As we have seen in other countries in the past, these planned projects could be installed very quickly, as soon as a regulatory framework can ensure sufficient revenues for investors.

In Spain, recently announced initial plans for a renewable power tender that could include 2 gigawatts (GW) of solar power is reviving the hope to deploy PV plants among developers with planned projects in this currently dormant market. More than 8 GW of PV projects under development have secured grid-connection permits over the past four years, but the majority has not advanced further.

Of these projects, IHS Markit is tracking close to 2 GW that have advanced over the past year toward receiving final construction approval. The developers of these projects claim that the revenue from these projects would come from selling power on the wholesale power market, an approach that IHS Markit deems highly risky, with low chances for most projects to secure the necessary financing. However, a potential PV tender increases the likelihood that some of the pipeline projects could be built over the next five years.

PV developers in Portugal also claim to target the wholesale power market, but with smaller scale than in Spain. In fact, grid-connection applications for 2.3 GW of projects have already been filed, but until Portugal announces a solid support scheme for large-scale PV plants, the majority of planned projects are unrealistic.

It will be very difficult to finance projects without fixed-rate power purchase agreements. Iberian power prices do not justify such an investment, and PV projects need guaranteed long-term revenues to be viable.

In Ireland, policy makers are preparing an incentive scheme to come into place in 2017. This is also the European market where the PV pipeline has grown most rapidly over the past year. IHS Markit currently tracks 3 GW of PV projects in Ireland at various stages of permitting.

All of these projects are betting on future incentives for ground-mount PV projects. Few details have been released regarding the tariffs or conditions in a future support scheme. If an attractive scheme comes into place, a wave of construction activity can be expected.

These are three markets, where developers have eagerly built up PV pipelines in anticipation of improved local conditions, and further decline in PV system prices. The exact contribution that these countries will provide to the overall ground-mount PV market in Europe still hinges on regulatory provisions that have yet to be rolled out.

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