As in previous years, Denmark remained the country dominating Europe’s solar district heating market. Twenty of the 23 new and upgraded district heating plants in Europe above 350 kWth (500 m²) from the statistics compiled by Jan-Olof Dalenbäck from the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, went into operation in Denmark – whereas Austria, Italy and Sweden had only one each to show for. Dalenbäck’s database shows 211 large-scale district heating plants currently in operation, with combined output at 708 MW (1.01 million m²). This means that only every fourth district heating plant in Europe uses solar energy compared to the 5,400 district heating systems a database from Swedish Halmstad University lists from across the EU-27. The map shows 2,188 cities with 2,445 larger district heating systems. The highest plant densities can be found in Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Source: Heat Roadmap Europe 2050 - Second pre-study for the EU27 (see the attached document)
After two shorter application periods, the Czech residential subsidy scheme Nova Zelena Usporam (New Green Savings) started into the third round on 22 October 2015 and is planned to run until the end of 2021. Whereas the first round had Czech Koruna (CZK) 1.9 billion allocated to the programme (April to December 2014) and the second one had to be content with CZK 0.9 billion (May to July 2015), there is now a total budget of CZK 27 billion, corresponding to CZK 4.4 billion per year. In absolute figures, it seems like an increase, but in view of the larger number of subsidised technologies, it is rather a budget reduction. Photovoltaic systems and connections to district heating and heat recovery are among the newly supported technologies. The good news for solar thermal system investors: There is no longer a requirement for an energy audit of the building before solar space heating is purchased. The first and second round required this audit in case of a combi system.
Which countries are currently attractive markets for solar process heat? Different sources give different answers to this question. The chart above shows the assessment of the solar industry. More than 30 % of the Austrian solar collector manufacturers in the two surveys in 2012 and 2013 assumed that solar process heat was the fastest-growing segment in their national market. More than every tenth manufacturer in Germany, Mexico and France shared their opinion. The figure in brackets behind the country stands for the number of surveys analysed. Some of the countries, such as Germany, India, Mexico and France, have a support scheme in place which focuses on solar process heat systems.
Since Slovakia and its 5.45 million citizens joined the European Union in 2004, the country has made considerable progress in increasing its energy efficiency and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Solar thermal technology, however, is still a niche market with stagnating annual volumes over the last three years. The European Solar Thermal Industry Federation estimates that 5,500 m² were newly installed in 2014, whereas EurObserv´Er published a figure of 7,000 m² for the same year. With 19 kW of solar thermal capacity in operation per 1,000 inhabitants at the end of 2013, there is still a lot of untapped potential given the fact that in the neighbouring Czech Republic, the parameter is significantly higher with 31 kW per 1,000 inhabitants (Source: Solar Heat Worldwide (260)). Clients are now waiting on an already announced new subsidy scheme which should have started at the beginning of August. The photo shows a roof integration system delivered by Thermosolar, a collector manufacturer based in Slovakia.
Change is coming to the world’s solar thermal markets: Single-family homes – currently the most important sales segment – are going to lose their significance in the future. Most solar thermal manufacturers across the globe predict their sales to be dominated by other segments over the coming years. These are just some of the results from international survey ISOL Navigator December 2014, a study published by German agency solrico. 365 solar collector manufacturers and solar thermal system suppliers from all corners of the globe participated in the survey. The figures in brackets show the number of questionnaires which were included in calculating the regional averages.
The stop and go of the national Czech subsidy scheme, Nová Zelená Úsporám (NZU) or New Green Savings, continues: The last application was accepted on 31 December 2014, the programme administrators from the Czech State Environmental Fund said in a press release published on 8 January 2015. The second call for applications to the NZU programme ran from April to December 2014 and resulted in 6,110 submitted applications for a total value of Czech Crown (CZK) 1.377 billion (EUR 49.6 million). According to Lenka Brandtová, the spokes woman of the State Environmental Fund of the Czech Republic, 44 % of the applications in 2014 included solar water heaters, which corresponds to 2660 subsidised solar thermal systems.
Austria’s market consolidation continues: At the beginning of December 2014, the two collector manufacturers Gasokol and Sunwin announced that they would merge their businesses and manufacturing activities. Sunwin´s modern production line would be moved from Pasching, where Sunwin´s company headquarters are located, to Saxen, Gasokol’s headquarters 50 kilometres away, and the new manufacturer would start operating at the beginning of 2015. According to the press release, the offerings of the two companies would still be available after the merger. The photo shows Gasokol´s Managing Director Ronald Gattringer (left) shaking hands with Sunwin´s Managing Director Hans Neunteufel.
Almost a year after the first call for applications for Czech support scheme Nová Zelená Úsporám (New Green Savings programme) in August 2013, the same negative attitude still pervades the solar system supplier segment. Companies have especially criticised the low financial support and the high administrative burden. The second call of the programme started on 1 April 2014 under the same dissatisfying conditions for solar water heating systems. The Czech Republic’s market volume saw another drop in 2013, this time by 11 %, as can be seen on the chart from the Ministry of Industry and Trade. “Although the sales of domestic companies are shrinking at an alarming rate each year, there are new companies, including online-only shops, which import collectors from China,” Aleš Bufka, who is responsible for the national solar statistics at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, explains. “The customs statistics show many small units by private persons. It seems that people purchase imported collectors to cover their personal demand.”
Vermos, VK Technik and Láf Nerez are all former Czech producers or assemblers of solar thermal collectors which started in the 90s and closed down their business over the last three years. In 2008, there were twelve collector manufacturers in the Eastern European country. Seven have disappeared in the meantime or are planning to do so over the coming months, such as Solarplus and Svoboda. These are some of the results of the annual surveys from German market research agency solrico. Most of the collector manufacturers blame the worsening situation on the new national incentive programme Nová Zelená Úsporám. The scheme will most likely not create an additional 70,000 jobs as promised by the former Minister of Environment, Tomáš Chalupa (see photo) – at least not in the solar thermal sector.
Photo: Martin Divíšek/denik.cz