Experts: The Netherlands will continue to be a booming PV market over the coming years

UTRECHT - In 2017, the Dutch solar energy market grew by more than 700MWp: a new record. This growth figure might actually double in 2018, but this potential appears to be threatened by a shortage in specialized and qualified workers at installation and construction companies needed to install all the solar rooftop and ground-based projects in the Dutch pipeline.

This is the conclusion drawn by experts from RVO.nl (the Netherlands Enterprise Agency) in the run-up to the tenth edition of The Solar Future NL, the annual Dutch solar energy conference. This year, the event will take place on the 17th of May in DeFabrique in Utrecht.

"The Netherlands is booming. We’re the biggest growth market in Europe.”

According to official CBS-data (the Central Bureau of Statistics), the total installed solar capacity in the Netherlands rose with 700MWp over the course of last year, reaching a cumulative capacity of 2.7GWp. Market watcher and local PV authority Peter Segaar of PolderPV analyzed the 6,450 new projects that were added to the grid in 2017 and claims the growth figure actually amounted to 725MWp. One thing is clear: the old record of 524MWp of annual capacity additions was easily broken. “The Netherlands is booming. We’re the biggest growth market in Europe,” says Segaar.

Peter Desmet, council member of Dutch PV association Holland Solar and director of wholesaler Solarclarity, thinks the upcoming growth path will be even steeper than projected. “The market is accelerating across all segments. Whether we’re talking about 6-panel roof projects or 6000-panel greenfield plants, large SDE+ projects, installations for housing corporations, companies and private owners; there’s growth all across the board,” he states.

That market growth is only set to increase this year. Most of the PV-projects that were completed in 2017, were granted SDE+ subsidies in 2014. Since solar claimed the lion’s share of approvals in the subsidy rounds of 2016 and 2017, experts see more record breaking years on the immediate horizon. “Up until the beginning of last year, over 4.4GWp worth of projects were granted SDE+ support. If I’m just accounting for what will be brought online on the short term, we’re already looking at a possible growth figure of 1.2 to 1.6 GW for 2018,” claims Segaar. “However, we are facing a challenge with the shortage of experienced and qualified installers that can realize this ever-growing pipeline. They’re bringing people in from Germany, Belgium and the UK to keep up with the pace.”
Desmet puts this same issue forward when stating that a doubling of last year’s growth figure might prove to be too challenging. “The subsidy is there, the financing is available, the projects are lined up, but there’s just too few people to build it. That could slow down the growth to about 1.1 to 1.2 GW,” he expects.

The annual SDE+ subsidy for renewable energy has played a major role in the growth of the Dutch solar energy market. Last year RVO.nl handed out 12 billion euros over two different rounds. In 2018’s spring round, another 6 billion euros was made available and minister Wiebes (Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy) has been said to consider making the same budget available for another round in the fall. “The share of those subsidies that solar energy is claiming, keeps on growing,” observes Robbert van Otterloo of the RVO.nl. “Systems and projects can also be rolled out at a relatively rapid pace these days. If you take into account what has been realized from the 2014 round, then we’ve got great expectations for what will be commissioned over the coming years and the spectacular growth it will signify.”

“The share of those subsidies that solar energy is claiming, keeps on growing.”

According to Holland Solar, though, the first SDE+ round of 2018 is not turning out very positively for rooftop projects. Due to a higher correction rate, these will be eligible for less subsidies if they are used for self-consumption. Despite protests from the association and a motion by GroenLinks (one of the ruling government parties), minister Wiebes has put these measures into effect.

“In 2018 this will not have a big impact yet, but over the course of 2019 and 2020 this might negatively impact industrial-size projects for large companies. That could harm thousands of projects,” says Desmet. “It doesn’t make sense. This way, you’re stimulating the feeding of solar electricity to the central grid instead of promoting self-consumption, which is exactly where you want to be going if you don’t want to over-stress the national grid.”

The reaction of RVO.nl’s Van Otterloo: “We’re aware of these protests. The minister will evaluate the feedback and take it into account with relation to the fall-round.”

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