Photovoltaics: Research and Development
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Another R&D subject to which hydrogen and fuel cell R&D is compared is photovoltaics (PV). This article gives a summary of the extent to which IEA and EU countries prioritise PV R&D (see Table 1). It also presents preliminary conclusions regarding political willingness with respect to PV R&D.
Priority for photovoltaics R&D in IEA and EU countries
Just like in case of biomass, the priority that IEA and EU countries give to R&D related to photovoltaics (PV) is qualified by making a top seven ranking for the years 1994 and 2003-2004, based on the table 1. The ranking for 1994 is as follows:
- The Netherlands
And the ranking for 2003-2004 is:
- The Netherlands
- Spain/France (depending on the year considered)
Contrary to the observation for biomass R&D, the budget for photovoltaics R&D did not increase substantially in the period 1994-2004, taking into account that data for Australia, Austria, Finland and the USA in 2004 are still lacking. However, the trend is surely increasing. There are six countries in the top seven ranking of both the years 1994 and 2003-2004, viz.:
- The Netherlands.
These countries are considered as willing to spend a considerable amount of public money on R&D related to PV, as they assume that PV may become an important energy source. As a matter of fact, the USA, Japan, and Germany - and to a much lesser extent Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands - are important PV markets from a global perspective. Also, the USA, Japan and Germany host a number of manufacturers of solar cells and panels. Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands rank high in PV R&D and also host producers of solar cells or panels.
Table 1: Public R&D budgets of IEA and EU countries related to photovoltaics
Source: IEA, 2005a (and similar IEA publications of years before 2004).
With regard to the three other countries that ranked high in either 1994 or 2003-2004, the following may be observed:
- Belgium is still promoting R&D of PV, although not to the same extent as in 1994.
- France ranks 7th with regard to cumulative R&D spending. Therefore, it is a top player.
- Spain is becoming a booming market for PV - just like Germany - thanks to favourable feed-in rates for electricity from PV. Also, its public expenditures for PV R&D are rising and Spain hosts several manufacturers of PV cells or panels.
Countries that are not in the top seven of R&D expenditures may also be important from the perspective of future market growth, e.g., the UK and Canada.
Public expenditures for photovoltaics (PV) R&D may be used as a yardstick for the willingness to establish a market for PV. IEA and EU countries performing well with regard to R&D spending - Japan, the USA, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Switzerland - are known for their high quality R&D on PV. Also, Germany and Japan are vigorously developing a domestic as well as an export market for PV. Other countries - France and Spain - became interested in developing their R&D potential and PV market in a later stage. The quantity and quality of R&D is not directly related to the creation of a domestic market. Some countries have difficulty to develop a domestic market because their climate is not so favourable. Most countries that perform high with regard to R&D spending also host manufacturers of PV cells or panels and enable market growth for PV. Still, ranking of countries with regard to R&D expenditures should be used with care when drawing conclusions on the willingness to develop a (domestic) market for PV.