“Europe has finally awoken”

Expert Interview – May 02, 2023

In this interview, Michael Schmela, Committee Chairman of the Intersolar Europe Conference and Executive Advisor of SolarPower Europe, tells us what the Intersolar Europe Conference has in store for its visitors and which topics he finds most relevant.

The Intersolar Europe Conference is coming up soon. What can attendees expect this year? Which topics will be in focus in 2023?

At the Intersolar Europe Conference, visitors will get a general overview of what is currently relevant and interesting in the solar industry. This year, we’ll start off with a global overview and shed some light on the strategies for decarbonization. After that, we’ll mostly focus on Europe, starting with an introduction to our annual Global Market Outlook for Solar Power, which illustrates how the European market is growing at an enormous rate – even faster than most other regional markets in the world. We will discuss the fastest-growing markets and examine the resulting challenges and opportunities. The topic of financing PV projects will also be addressed. This includes the question of how to achieve the fast and large-scale use of solar energy in Europe.

This year, we will also be focusing on European PV production in particular. Awoken by the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis, Europe is finally pushing for a more resilient production. On behalf of the European Commission, SolarPower Europe organizes two sessions on this topic, in which experts will be discussing the European Union’s strategies for achieving a renaissance of solar production.

One brand new topic in 2023 are hybrid applications. The number of solar installations is growing – and as we all know, the sun does not shine at night. In order to make a 100 percent renewable energy supply a reality, we need other technologies. This is why more and more hybrid systems, meaning solar and wind power plants in combination with storage systems, which can also provide grid services, are being installed. In this conference stream, we will also be discussing solar energy on European roofs, because roof-mounted PV systems make up around two thirds of all installations. In our sessions, we will be talking about the types of business models that are out there for rooftop installations as well as how individual energy independence can be achieved. There will be three more sessions on utility-scale solar energy, which accounts for one-third of the market share today, but is expected to grow in the long term.

The conference program will also include the topic of sustainability. Solar energy may be inherently sustainable, but it’s still necessary to ensure that all ESG criteria are observed during project planning and that the supply chain is transparent. It is important for companies to know where their products come from.

The conference will conclude with a discussion of some technology trends, bringing everyone up to date. There will also be sessions on various modern PV applications, such as Agri PV, which combines energy and food production, as well as floating PV, which is used in areas where land is scarce, forcing us to use bodies of water.

When it comes to the conference as a whole, what are the benefits for attendees? Why should they go to the conference?

It’s a good idea to both visit the exhibition and attend the conference. The conference starts one day before the exhibition, giving attendees a good introduction to some of the major issues and innovations and preparing them for the exhibition. Of course, the conference provides attendees with the opportunity to network with players from all around the world. When planning the sessions, we also made sure to invite renowned leaders from different technology areas to give the presentations. A qualified conference committee team ensures that the presentations focus on the actual topic rather than advertising a particular product. The whole program is designed to give the audience a deep dive into various topics within a very short time.

Which markets are currently on the rise and how are they included in the program?

We will start off by introducing the Global Market Outlook for Solar Power, a world-renowned report that gives a good overview of the latest developments in each of the markets. The biggest market is Germany, followed by Spain, Poland and the Netherlands. There will be national associations representing these markets as well as company representatives in attendance, who will share their knowledge on all the latest developments.

Can you recommend any must-attend sessions, also with regard to the different stakeholder groups?

A relatively new topic, which was only added recently to our program, are hybrid power plants. Hybrid PV power plants are my absolute favorite topic of this year’s conference. The focus is on how to ensure a 24/7 supply of electricity from renewable sources. We need to learn more about this issue in our industry, because it’s been on the agenda of more and more players – both among businesses and among consumers.

For large companies that are making the transition to 100 percent renewable energies, it is important that the electricity is always available. The session is directed particularly at project developers and EPCs, so anyone who is involved with the development and installation of ground-mounted systems.

The sessions on PV production are also among my favorites, because we need to return solar production to Europe. This is the only way for us to reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers. The sessions are also directed at political decision makers from Brussels, for example. The Director-General of DG GROW will also there, along with all relevant partners from research and production. These sessions are being organized by SolarPower Europe and the European Solar PV Industry Alliance, an initiative established by the European Commission.

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