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European solar heating and cooling market in decline

The market for solar heating and cooling in the EU and Switzerland has dropped for the second consecutive year

By Isabella Kaminski

The overall European solar heating and cooling market declined in 2010, according to the latest market statistics for the 27 EU member states and Switzerland released by the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) at Intersolar 2011.

It is the second year that the solar heating and cooling market has decreased, although it still remains above its 2007 level with a total 2586 MWth (3,694,940 m²) of newly installed capacity.

The German market, while still the largest in Europe, dropped by nearly 29% in 2010. It is now almost back to its 2007 level, with 805 MWth of newly installed capacity (1,150,000 m²).

The other main solar heating and cooling markets, including Italy, Spain, Austria, France and Greece (between 200,000 and 500,000 m² of newly installed capacity), behaved very differently in 2010. The Greek and Italian markets increased slightly, but Austria, Spain and France suffered a decline; it was the second year in a row for the French market.

A group of developing markets – Portugal, Poland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Denmark and the UK – grew a total of 8.8%. However, their combined increase of 40,000 m² does not quite compensate for the decrease recorded in larger solar heating and cooling markets.

Xavier Noyon, ESTIF Secretary General, says: “One of the factors contributing to this downturn is the lack or unpredictable nature of incentive frameworks. The resulting stop-go cycles and deferred decisions have adversely affected sales and undermined investor and consumer confidence. However, there is ground for optimism: the analysis of the consolidated National Renewable Energy Action Plans, submitted by each [EU] member state earlier in the year, reveals that over the next decade the share of solar thermal should rise by 15% per annum.”

Robin Welling, President of ESTIF, adds: “The solar thermal industry has experienced the full impact of the 2008 financial crisis as the construction sector has been particularly affected by the economic recession that followed. We expected to derive some benefit from the combined implementation of the binding renewable targets and higher energy performance standards – but this process is only beginning.” 

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Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar heating and cooling