dinsdag 3 juli 2012

FiT-free PV markets


'FiT for Free' has nothing to do with feed-in tariffs or solar energy, but is a fitness brand in the Netherlands. Still, solar PV companies in Holland expect to remain in better shape when 'freed from FiT'.

Fed up with the government
Dutch solar entrepreneurs are completely fed up with the inconsistent, unsustainable, discontinuous incentives their government called 'an optimized FiT'. Unanimously, they begged the government and politicians this year NOT to continue this incentive, nor to introduce any new subsidy. The current net metering regulation is sufficient to make the Netherlands, blessed with high energy prices, one of the world's first grid parity markets. This year has already seen numerous projects and new business models started and implemented. And guess what happened... the market started growing – without either incentives or a FiT.  And so did the number of new companies. It felt like the market had been freed. No government ruling or control.
Just entrepreneurs and customers.

Tired of FiT
Not only in NL is the solar industry tired of FiTs and the continuous changes enforced by governments and politicians running after the rapidly changing dynamics of the global PV industry. It is hard fully understand what is happening. Once they think they have figured out a nice FiT regime, prices collapse further and we are even seeing local companies break down. Instead of making them happy, these decreasing module prices scare them off. Budgets are running out of control due to the tsunamis of PV applications. The paradox is that the more the governments decrease a FiT, the faster people invest in a solar system. It is customer psychology. In the end, you do not want to be the loser who missed all the good tariffs in the past, being left with the 'leftovers' or even no FiT.

Pain in the roof
For all other stakeholders in the market, such as investors, banks, installers and EPCs, these ever-changing regulations are a 'pain in the roof'. Working with unforeseeable peaks in demand is indeed a business challenge in terms of personnel, cash flow management and purchasing capacity. The frustration could be felt at the latest Global Demand Conference in Munich. All major EU markets – Italy, Germany, France, Belgium and the UK – are now being confronted with new (unexpected) FiT cutbacks. It is the same everywhere, with governments prepared to expect the unexpected. You could almost feel the fatigue among the speakers and participants in Munich. “We are done with this. We need a sustainable model where at least you know what will happen six months from now. Otherwise no business or project planning will be feasible…”

Always expect the unexpected
It feels like the Dutch weather forecast: promised a sunny season and suddenly it starts raining. This feels like a cold shower. For immediately in your family the discussion starts to steer towards a really secure, sunny place, even at extra cost... For the solar entrepreneurs, the situation is almost the same: escape from the uncertain weather.  Let's move to where the sun shines permanently. And that is exactly what more companies will be doing – exploring business opportunities in sunny countries such as India, China, Chile, Mexico, South Africa and Brazil. Markets where at least one thing is sure: plenty of sunshine!

And what did the new temporary coalition in the Netherlands do in its wisdom and eagerness to show of its greenness? Introduce a new subsidy, effective 2 July!
It is time to take a holiday and get in shape for the second half of the year...

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