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EURO RAIL EXPERTISE


But Van Renterghem told us that in the short-term, Government involvement would remain nec- essary: “What we have seen in Germany is they started with an incentive mechanism and that an industry has grown up to a certain scale. For example, three years ago, if you compare the cost of so- lar PV then and now, investment costs have already dropped almost 40%, because those incentives have enabled the industry to grow and to cut down costs in order to make this kind of energy more and more competitive.


“If all the other countries had not enabled the larger-scale projects, this would have remained an in- dustry for the residential market. We would have never seen this reduction in price, because if you look only at the small residential market, it would result in a very fragmented market, with a lot of players, and it will be more like the boiler replacement industry or similar. What we have seen in the UK, and what has now stopped, is that there were thousands of jobs being created in the solar energy


industry, there were millions of pounds coming into the UK to in- vest in the industry and it has now all been stopped.


“You now see a lot of players who were already investing in the mar- ket have gone now to other mar- kets. That is a contradiction – the Government says it wants to be the greenest government ever, it says it wants to create new jobs and create a green economy, but it does this. There was a real pos- sibility to deliver on this, because the solar PV industry is a deliver- able technology, such as this pro- ject on the tunnel.


“It does not disturb anyone; it just makes use of infrastructure, or an area of land, which is available, has no economic use, where you can install the technology. It is a very straightforward technology, it is not huge and complicated; it does not require a lot of operation and maintenance. But now the whole industry is in limbo.”


Are – or were – there other infra- structure projects seriously con- sidering this sort of technology?


Van Renterghem said: “We were in discussion in the UK with a cou- ple of players in rail infrastructure, and we were in discussion with Eurostar about installing solar PV on one of their big warehouses.


“But for us, we are in this business so we can make money. But if no- body is making any money out of it, then there is no business.


“Why are people like Eurostar in- terested in the fi rst place? Because they want to reduce their carbon footprint. On the other side, there is also some advantage for them because they are producing elec- tricity themselves and they can purchase that at a reduced cost price.


“So that is an advantage. But now the advantage for the stakeholders of this kind of project has gone, be- cause we cannot justify this invest- ment because we would operate making a loss.”


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rail technology magazine Jun/Jul 11 | 51


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