The latest edition of Solar Solutions, the largest solar trade fair in the Netherlands, showed that the Dutch solar market is set to stabilize in terms of volumes while preparing to integrate more heat pumps and storage. The solar energy sector is calling for net metering to be abandoned in order to create a more sustainable decentralized solar market.
“The event covered an area of 21,000 m2 and was attended by more than 300 exhibitors and 17,258 visitors,” Christian Sparborth, Marketing and Communications Manager at Good! Events & Media, told pv magazine. “The number of visitors increased by 35% compared to the 2022 edition and the m2 increased by 10%.”
Sparborth said the event organizer sees it as the first regular show since 2019. “This year we had a bigger section on heating solutions and heat pumps and saw an increase in storage systems offerings,” he said.
The Dutch solar market is currently stabilizing, but at a very high level, argued Sparborth, noting that it is still twice as large as it was four years ago. “Next year the heat pump section will grow and include more district heating technologies,” he said.
According to preliminary figures, the Netherlands could have installed more than 4 GW of new solar capacity in 2022, and this year demand could rise to about the same level, said Wijnand van Hooff, CEO of Dutch solar association Holland Solar.
“We have seen some Chinese companies return to the event after a three-year hiatus due to Covid-19 regulations,” he said. “We’ve also seen a lot of storage and EV charging, which shows the potential of creative grid management solutions.”
He noted how the event responds to known congestion issues in the Dutch network.
“Network congestion is a problem, but it’s not as big as the network operators lead us to believe,” he said pv magazine. “Technical limits have not yet been reached, so large-scale solar power will be added in the future in Holland. Congestion management is a solution, and it will be mandatory from November. However, so far it has not been used at all or very limited.”
Van Hooff said that the electricity scale market will not stop going forward despite the current difficulties.
“We will probably see a shift from SDE++-supported projects, whose requirements will be more complex in the future, to unsupported Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) projects,” he said.
As for the rooftop segment, which is currently driven by net metering, Van Hooff said that Holland Solar currently supports a proposal for a faster system phase-out combined with a storage system discount program launched in 2021 by Netbeheer Nederland and Energy Storage NL. They said that solar capacity has grown too fast and that grid bottlenecks are becoming a serious problem, especially in the country’s low-voltage grid.
“We believe net metering should be phased out gradually, but gradually without sudden changes that can kill the market,” he said. “In the long term, it would be better for the industry. But we need to avoid what happened in Belgium when net metering was shut down when the battery was not available, killing two sectors at once.”
Van Hooff also claimed that solar manufacturing could return to the Netherlands soon. “There is a very concrete plan in this country for a 3 GW solar plant under a nine-company MCPV consortium,” he concluded.
Imfred De Jong, sales manager of the Swiss Meyer Burger, said that he has had the opportunity to meet many installers at the Solar Solutions fair.
“There is a growing demand for solar modules made in Europe,” he said. “We see this coming from both consumers and businesses.”
However, De Jong admitted that awareness of the advantages of heterojunction technology is still limited to some installers in the Netherlands. “At this point, we are mainly targeting the residential construction segment,” he said. “But we’re also seeing growing interest from the C&I business in these products.”
Jacques van der Bijl, SolarEdge Benelux technical marketing manager, pointed out that there will be a larger heat pump section at the show.
“Our products are the ideal solution for combining solar electricity production and heat pumps. We see growing demand for this mix, but net metering remains the biggest hurdle,” he said. “This system can probably be phased out, but it is still uncertain what will happen, and this is also a problem for the battery segment, where the Netherlands has slowed down.”
He added that the company also hopes for a gradual change, as a sudden change can stop the market completely.
Trina Solar’s director of product solutions and marketing (EMEA) Adele Zhao said the fair had more visitors than previous years. He said he was surprised to see guests from other countries, especially Eastern Europe.
“The Dutch market continues to grow, especially in the roof segment,” he said. “The grid and constraints are currently serious problems for large solar power subsidized under the country’s SDE++ system and unsubsidized projects under PPAs.”
Linda Huang, Long’s Benelux and Great Britain sales director, said that the company met all its strategic partners in both Belgium and the Netherlands at the event.
“Last year we delivered about 1 GW of products to the Benelux countries and this year our target is 1.5 GW,” he said, noting that the biggest problem in this market at the moment is the lack of labor. “We operate mainly in the distributed production market.”
Daniel Hofer, regional sales manager of Austrian inverter manufacturer Fronius, said that many professionals attended the exhibition to look for business opportunities.
“We are opening new sales channels here, especially as demand for European brands grows,” he said. “Information security also drives more customers to our products, and consumers’ awareness of the matter increases considerably. However, supply is still a limiting factor due to supply chain issues.
Sungrow’s distribution and channel manager Matthijs Van de Water said that he was also able to meet companies from Spain, Portugal, Croatia and other countries.
“We’re seeing an increase in demand compared to last year,” he said. “We still don’t see much demand for household batteries in the Netherlands due to the existence of net metering. However, we see strong demand in Belgium, where the net metering system no longer exists.”