France Aims To Save Solar Industry

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The new French government has announced plans to double its solar production capacity target, and will provide more financial support to small photovoltaic farms, all in a hope to save the country’s solar industry, which has suffered over recent years.

French Energy Minister Delphine Batho announced the measures which the country hopes will spur investments worth over 2 billion euros.

This is valuable news to an industry which has seen 15,000 jobs flushed down the drain over the last two years. In 2010, the French solar industry employed 32,500 people, but that number has dropped to only 18,000 by the end of 2012. In the meantime, solar power and the jobs that come with it have been booming in many neighboring European countries.

Hence the need for the government to step in and help.

The production capacity target will double to 1,000 megawatts (MW) per year, or the equivalent capacity of a small nuclear power reactor, Batho said during a visit to a solar panel factory in Western France this week.

Additionally, the French government will add a bonus of up to 10% on feed-in tariffs for smaller solar farms that are using photovoltaic panels made in Europe.

“Many jobs were lost because of the (former) government’s yoyo policies. But we will fight… to develop the ecological competitiveness of France,” Batho told reporters.

Speaking from the sidelines of the announcement, however, was Jean-Louis Bal, the head of France’s main renewable energy sector lobby SER, who said that the measures would help in the short term but failed to offer long-term stability for the solar industry.

“However it’s the first positive message from the government in over three years,” Bal told reporters.

And focusing on the “now” is a lot more important than hoping the French government will introduce some long-term plan. The simple fact of the matter is that the country needs to start somewhere and build from a solid foundation.

Source: Reuters