Photovoltaics is an area, like many other technology areas, in which many nationally oriented efforts prevail, and in which national pride and national interests are still important. At the same time, more and more people recognise that international cooperation can be much more effective in many instances, and is sometimes a necessity given the large investments required. Initiatives such as the Framework programmes of the European Commission help in stimulating international co-operation in research and demonstration.
In the development of recommended practices for energy systems, the International Energy Agency agreements between OECD member countries have also played an important role. For example, in the case of wind energy the IEA-recommended practices on how to measure the output of wind turbines were an important boost for industry to develop their products in the early eighties, and were a forerunner of present-day standards.
Since 1993, twenty OECD countries and the European Commission (DG XII and XVII) have collaborated in carrying out activities in the area of Photovoltaic Power Systems (PVPS) under the IEA’s umbrella. The participating countries are Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. The mission of the ША-PVPS Agreement is “to enhance the international collaboration efforts through which photovoltaic solar energy becomes a significant energy option in the near future". This applies particularly to OECD countries, but also to non-OECD countries including developing countries. The PVPS Agreement addresses the following priorities:
• Helping towards reduction in the cost of PV applications.
• Increase in awareness of PV potential and value.
• Fostering the market deployment of PV by removing non-technical barriers.
• Enhancement of transfer of knowledge of PV to developing countries.
An overview of the national PV programmes of the participating countries are reported every year in the PVPS Annual Report (www. iea. org/tech/pvps/home. htm), whereas trends in PV installed capacity, prices, industry growth and policy issues are reported in the International Survey Report, produced every year (PVPS-ISR, 1999). For example: the latest ISR indicates that, in the period 1992-1998, the installed PV capacity in the reporting ША countries increased at an average rate of over 25% per year. The cumulative power installed was 392 MWP, with over 80 MWp installed in 1998, and the proportion of on-grid PV power increased from 30% in 1992 to 46% in 1998. The total budget for market stimulation, demonstration and R&D in the reporting countries increased from US$ 350 million in 1997 to US$ 458 million in 1998. There is a marked increase in the proportion of the budget for market stimulation: from 18% in 1994 to 47% in 1998. A large number of new initiatives were reported, including an increasing number of green electricity schemes, net metering, specific tariffs for PV and government grants for installations. Utilities in the reporting countries are also showing an increasing interest in PV.
Apart from the IEA co-operation described above, it is becoming clear that cooperation among PV industries is a necessity, as well as closer co-operation between industries, building companies, utilities and local governments. PV industries have joined in industry associations in Europe, Japan and the USA. Mergers, such as those between Siemens and Arco, and BP Solar and Solarex, have occurred in the past and, given the quickly rising demand for PV and the required investments, it is probable that further mergers will occur in the near future.