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Carlos Lee, director general of EPIC – the European Photonics Industry Consortium – looks at recent technological developments in the field of photovoltaics

It would be misleading to argue whether photonics is driving renewable energy, or if photonics IS renewable energy. The answer is simply both; from fibres to lasers used in photovoltaic manufacturing, it is clear how the reference to an ‘enabling’ technology is appropriate – optics and photonics have a great contribution to make to renewable energy generation. This article will cover recent market and technology advances in photovoltaics, as well as in lighting. While it is great to use renewable energy, we know that the best way to be energy-efficient is to reduce consumption in the first place. With lighting representing 20 per cent of the overall energy consumption, I am glad to report on recent technology developments. With photovoltaics and lighting being technologies within the scope of EPIC, I am lucky to be able to rely on input from the members of the consortium to report recent developments.

Photovoltaics Carlos Lee 4 PHOTONICS FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY 2013

Recent developments in photovoltaics (PV) are an interesting combination of technology, market, and policy. There has been enormous uncertainty in the PV industry. Following a long period of trade investigations, the European

Commission concluded that Chinese solar- panel makers benefited from government subsidies, preferential lending, tax programmes and other assistance. Anti-dumping tariffs in the range of 37 to 68 per cent on Chinese PV modules have been implemented, while a minimum price and a volume limit on EU imports of Chinese solar panels was defined until end 2015. But the sun is finally rising on the global PV business, with growing demand in developing regions helping to ignite the first increase in manufacturing equipment spending in three years in 2014, according to the market information provider IHS. In sharp contrast to Europe, growth in Asia will continue to increase – with installations forecast to grow by 75 per cent in 2013, making it the largest region globally. Successful incentive schemes in Japan and India are also leading to these markets rapidly expanding in 2013. Asia is forecast to account for half of global installations in 2013. With regards to manufacturing capacity, Jon Campos, solar analyst at IHS, explains: ‘South America, Africa and the Middle East now are leading the world in solar capacity additions, and are leading the capital expenditure segment of the PV business out of its slump.’

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