As part of the CLEAR-X project, Slovakian consumer organisation SOS and Lithuania consumer organisation ALCO are running collective purchase campaigns dedicated to PV (solar) panels. The goal of this campaign is to offer high-quality, product-tested PV panels to consumers at a competitive price.

As the shift to renewable energy urgently scales up across Europe, the demand for renewable technologies is rising among consumers. Already, EU Member States are experiencing problems meeting the demand for accredited installers to perform such installations. Below, SOS and ALCO highlight some of the key problems they have run into when it comes to installation.

Small installation companies: For one thing, PV panel installers tend to be very small enterprises in Slovakia, with a maximum of three to five installers working in a company. Many retailers do not have dedicated installers, so they subcontract the installation work to these microenterprises. Because of the small company size, it also means there is no installation company working nationally, but rather all operate on a regional basis.

While it is not necessarily a problem that installation businesses are small, it may affect the ability of the government to run national installation schemes, and specific to the CLEAR-X project, will create difficulties in coordinating a collective purchase scheme that runs across the country. These problems are not experienced as acutely in Lithuania, as installation companies’ size varies.

Limited annual installation window: Due to long and cold winters, partners in Central and Eastern Europe reported that the installation window for PV panels is limited; little to no installations happen in Slovakia during winter months, while installations in Lithuania are often cancelled due to snow and rain. Understandably, this can create backlogs for installers and lengthy delays for consumers.

Supply chain issues: There is an acute shortage of PV panel modules in Slovakia at the moment, with buyers in other EU countries proving more competitive. This makes it difficult to coordinate a large- scale collective purchase campaign, as retailers struggle to identify PV models that they can guarantee will be available.

“Generally speaking, collective purchase campaigns are an excellent way to get renewable technologies into the hands of consumers,” commented Ruta Trainyte of ALCO. “However, they are not without their problems. Hopefully, highlighting the logistical issues above can lead to governments strategising and hammering out the kinks, so that the transition to renewables can become faster and smoother.”

Trainyte added that Lithuania has its own annual PV production capacity of 60 MW, concentrated in the hands of three producers. ALCO expected that short supply lines using locally produced PV panels, would reduce risks of shortages during the collective purchase campaign.

Projects such as CLEAR-X can help the European Commission build out a more robust Solar Strategy, overcome the barriers to the deployment of renewables and secure an independent, fossil-free energy future.

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The CLEAR-X project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 101033682.