In June, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy published its annual solar market report carried out by the solar energy association Swissolar (see the attached document in German and French). In 2014, sales of glazed collectors dropped by 7 %, down to 113,000 m² of absorber area. Vacuum tube collectors had a share of 13 %. The statistics also include 4,487 m² of unglazed collectors. The chart shows the shares of the different collector technologies over the years.
India is one of the largest global importers of vacuum tubes used in solar thermal collectors – also because there has not yet been a business manufacturing them locally. Market volume amounted to an estimated 4 million vacuum tubes in 2014, which are currently imported under four different Harmonized System (HS) codes, with each of them referring to another type of application. Because of a lack of certified standards for vacuum tube collectors, some dealers are taking undue advantage of the situation and fall prey to sub-standard quality at cheaper prices. As a result, India has virtually become a “dumping ground” while the number of complaints has been on the rise.
Around 21 GWth (30 million m² of collector area) are to be installed in South Africa by 2030 – half a square metre per inhabitant. More than 200,000 additional jobs could be created by then. These are the ambitious targets of the South African Solar Thermal Technology Roadmap, SA-STTRM. It is a challenging target when compared with the only around 2.3 million m² which were installed in the country by 2014, but a realistic one when compared with the current deployment rates of countries such as Cyprus with 0.6 m²/head or Israel with 0.54 m²/head at the end of 2013. The chart shows the projected total solar thermal collector area between 2014 and 2030 based on the aim of reaching 0.5 m² of installed collector area per inhabitant by 2030.
Finding feasible renovation models to change energy-consuming buildings into nearly zero-energy ones is the aim of the EU-GUGLE project, which stands for European cities serving as Green Urban Gate towards Leadership in sustainable Energy. The programme was launched at the six participating European cities of Aachen (Germany), Bratislava (Slovakia), Milan (Italy), Sestao (Spain), Tampere (Finland) and Vienna (Austria) in 2013. Each one of these cities agreed to renovate 226,000 m2 of living space over five years by increasing the share of renewable energy sources to 25 % in order to save between 40 % and 80 % of primary energy consumption with it. The photo shows the collector installation on the roof of a multi-family building in Tampere, one of the very few solar thermal installations in the EU project.
In Denmark, there are currently around 576,000 m² of solar collectors providing 403 MW of thermal power to 61 district heating systems. Another 28 plants with 395 MW and 564,000 m² of collector area are in the pipeline, according to a presentation held by Danish consultant Per Kristensen at the SDH conference in Toulouse in June 2015. Widely replicable plant concepts are part of the success story.
The annual market statistic of the Polish Institute for Renewable Energy (EC BREC IEO) show a clear downward trend over the last two years, mainly because of changes in the national subsidy scheme of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, NFOŚiGW. The Prosument programme, which was launched in May 2014, stipulated the installation of a micro-renewable electricity installation before an investor was able to apply for a solar water heater. This reduced the attractiveness of solar thermal technology tremendously and became a great market barrier according to the discussion at the 8th Energy Forum held in Warsaw in May 2015. Therefore, it was good news that NFOŚiGW removed the required combination of renewable electricity and renewable heat systems in its publication on 24 June 2015, which has been in effect since 1 August 2015. But in the same decision paper by the Supervisory Board of NFOŚiGW, the programme administrator restricted the subsidy level for solar heat.
“The Renewable Heat Incentive in the United Kingdom has failed to stimulate the market for solar thermal, which continues to contract. There are technical issues in the regulations preventing the use of solar thermal with other renewable heating systems, such as biomass and heat pumps, and the subsidy rate is relatively low compared to the feed-in tariff for solar photovoltaics.” This clear statement was made by Dr Robert Edwards, Director in the Science and Innovation Group at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). He represents the country in the Executive Committee of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling (SHC) research programme and delivered an updated country profile of the British solar thermal market in June 2015. As part of its services, the IEA SHC programme publishes updated market profiles of all 20 member countries each year. You will find the list of member countries online and the link to the country profile at the bottom of each country page. The statement by Edwards is part of the latest UK country profile.
In Italy, a recent national decree no. 164/2014, the so-called Sblocca Italia, aiming at simplifying bureaucratic processes, introduced the concept of a standard building code, which should be developed by the government in cooperation with the regions and municipalities. Of course, in such a standard code, the provisions on energy efficiency and renewables will play a relevant role, which will once again ignite the debate on this hot issue. Hence, Legambiente, one of the major environmental associations in Italy, titled its annual study about the status quo of the implementation of the national renewable building code Simplification and Innovation in Construction: Towards the Building Regulations Act. According to this study, which was presented in February this year, 903 Italian municipalities introduced a mandatory regulation to cover a share of sanitary hot water demand, usually 50 %, with solar thermal technology (see the attached document). The map shows the regions with these kinds of mandatory regulations in place (red and green), as well as the regions without renewable building obligations (orange and yellow). Sicily introduced no specific building regulation.
The countries in the Gulf region have taken the path of mandatory green building certifications instead of solar building obligations, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) leading the ranking on the highest number of green buildings: 823 of an overall 1,281 green premises in the Gulf nations are located in the UAE. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman follow far behind. The ranking is based on information from online database www.usgbc.org/projects, which includes 80,917 premises certified according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system developed in the USA. The global database is managed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and shows that the other Gulf countries – e.g., Bahrain, Yemen and Kuwait – only have 15 buildings altogether. The country with the largest share of highly ranked buildings with Silver, Gold or Platinum is Saudi Arabia, where green headquarters seem to provide a great PR boost for companies and institutions.
Brazil is going to implement compulsory certification of solar water heating (SWH) equipment in 2015. Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Mexico already have laboratories for testing, and Costa Rica has recently set up one. Latin America is working through the regional Pan American Standards Commission, COPANT, on regional standards for SWHs, with the aim of harmonising them with ISO standards. The region is not yet considering a common regional testing and certification scheme, but there is a growing consciousness of the fact that testing and certification performance, as well as quality is very important to developing the SWH markets of the region. It is the reason why 50 experts from 14 countries have recently discussed how to accelerate the process: The Regional Forum (from 29 to 30 June 2015) was jointly organised by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the project “Quality Infrastructure for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)” coordinated by the National Metrology Institute of Germany, PTB, the Latin American Energy Organization, OLADE, the Electricity Institute of Costa Rica, ICE, and the National Standards Body of Costa Rica, INTECO. All presentations are available for download on the IRENA website.