Across Europe, it is clear that the political drivers governing the solar sector are changing. Historically, the industry has been supported by a subsidy driven system that encouraged rapid growth and volume to drive down costs. Within these market conditions, niche products such a BIPV were less economically viable and as a result, have struggled to gain traction. But the traditional market parameters are changing. Subsidies are being cut across Europe, which is reducing the incentive to build large-scale solar projects.
At the same time, so-called ‘Prosumer’ policies, which encourage the self-consumption of own generated power, is likely to fill the subsidy gap and this could be good for BIPV systems. If these prosumer policies gain traction, then BIPV has the potential to hit the big time, particularly as the cost of solar cells continues to fall. This does not mean that roof installation will be competitive at any price. However, it is likely that with the fall in the cost of production of solar cells, it becomes more viable to build customised products at costs which are still compatible with profitability on rooftops across Europe.
Another trend we are seeing across Europe is the drive to create more sustainable, environmentally friendly buildings that minimise energy consumption. For example, the European Commission’s ‘energy performance of buildings directive’ stipulates that all new buildings must be ‘nearly zero energy’ by 2018’ and existing buildings by ‘2020.’ On the 30th November 2016, the commission also proposed an update to the directive to help promote the use of smart technology in buildings and to streamline existing rules. The commission has also recently published a new buildings database – the EU Building Stock Observatory – to track the energy performance of buildings across Europe. BIPV is a technology that can assist Governments in reducing general emissions from buildings and hit their greenhouse gas targets. As Government policy continues to put pressure on developers to build more sustainable buildings, BIPV is likely to become an important technology enabler.