The fall came after a 60% increase in solar thermal installations in 2008 with over 4 million m2 of solar panels sold in Europe.
ESTIF says 2009 was a “challenging year”. The German market contracted by 23%, but it remained market leader with a 38% solar thermal market share.
Recently booming countries such as France, Spain and Italy felt the effects of the economic downturn most acutely.
However, Oliver Drücke, ESTIF President, says: “The solar thermal sector still outperformed a market environment characterised by struggling building industries in many European countries and the global economic crisis.”
Smaller solar thermal markets (below 200,000 m2 annual newly installed capacity) like Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK, all so double digit growth in 2009. The Portuguese solar thermal market even saw a twofold increase due to a new financial incentive scheme.
Policy support needed
ESTIF says the solar thermal sector’s stability “remains fragile being highly dependent on the diversified and inconsistent support mechanisms available for solar thermal technologies across Europe.
“Often periods of strong growth are followed by sharp downturns, a trend illustrated by the past two years with a substantial increase of 60% in 2008 and a decrease of 10% in 2009.”
The financial and economic crisis continues to have a negative impact on public support and incentive policies for renewable heating and cooling, making the outlook for 2010 uncertain.
However, “orders for large solar installations seem to be unaffected by the market downturn,” ESTIF says.