- From April this year, a new, more complicated billing system for home photovoltaic owners is in force
- The regulatory change first caused a sharp increase in orders at the end of 2021 and in the first quarter of 2022, and then a massive slowdown in the market
- Photovoltaic installers, who had full order books in recent years, faced the threat of a financial collapse. – After April 1, practically nothing happened, the market froze. The demand that was raging suddenly stopped. It was a cold shower for the entire industry, notes the Columbus boss
- Zieliński predicts that many smaller companies will not be able to survive on the market. It is estimated that around 43.8 thousand people work in the field of photovoltaic installers. people
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The problems of the photovoltaic industry began at the end of last year, when households began to invest in panels en masse to make it before April 1, 2022, i.e. before the change of the prosumer billing system (owners of small solar installations generating electricity for their own needs).
– We were doing great, but the future turmoil related to the new law for prosumers caused the society to massively start buying photovoltaics. The industry was not ready for the next wave of the boom. The last two quarters of 2021 were a gigantic price pressure that extended into the first quarter of 2022. We maintained the leading position, but we could not achieve satisfactory prices. At the same time, the components began to become much more expensive. Our subcontractors took advantage of the boom moment and raised prices, strongly hitting the stability of our business – explains Dawid Zieliński, CEO of Columbus Energy.
Consequently, this company is one of the largest on the market photovoltaic micro-installations, recorded a net loss of PLN 16.4 million in 2021. This year also started badly – in the first quarter of 2022, the loss already reached PLN 13.8 million, despite the excellent demand for solar panels. Columbus’ quotations on the NewConnect market, after an earlier spectacular increase, fell by as much as 80% within 12 months. In addition, the debt loop began to tighten, because the company violated some of the financial ratios required in its loan agreements.
– We are discussing this with the banks. We invested our loans in solar farms that we want to sell now. There is no shortage of people willing – ensures Zieliński.
Therefore, Columbus Energy plans to sell the solar farms already built this year with a total capacity of 62 MW and another 43 MW of power in the wind farms under construction. That’s not all – in order to get straight, it must also significantly cut costs, including employment. At the end of last year, the entire group employed over 1,200 people. Now the crew is to have a maximum of 800-1000 people.
“The market has froze”, heat pumps will save the industry?
After April 1, the industry became stagnant. Who wanted to install the panels on the roof, did it earlier in order to be able to settle accounts on the basis of the old rules, i.e. return the surplus of electricity produced to the grid and then receive up to 80 percent. this energy at a different time, e.g. in winter. The new regulations have completely changed the way prosumers are settled.
According to the new rules, the producer is to sell surplus energy at wholesale pricesand buy the shortage of electricity from an energy trading company – on the same terms as other households, i.e. with additional fees, e.g. for distribution. The purchase price of energy will therefore be completely different than the selling price.
– After April 1, practically nothing happened in the industry, the market froze. The demand that was raging suddenly stopped. It was a cold shower for the entire industry – reports the head of Columbus.
He adds, however, that in June we can already see an improvement in demand for panels, and the company has high hopes for the sale of heat pumps, which, in the face of the sharp increase in coal and gas prices, are becoming an increasingly popular source of home heating. Thanks to this and as a result of cost reduction Columbus – as the company’s management board announces – is to exceed the break-even point in June and achieve a positive operating result in the third quarter.
Heat pumps can be a rescue for many companies in the industry, because a significant increase in demand for solar micro-installations will still have to wait. It turns out, however, that it is not that simple.
– Sale heat pumps this is now the idea of many companies that have specialized in solar panel mounting so far. It is not that simple, however, it often requires removing the old heat source in the house and modernizing the entire heating node. There aren’t many specialists who can do that. It is estimated that in Poland the demand for heat pumps may amount to 100-200 thousand. pieces per year. Access to components remains a problem. Today it is a scarce product across Europe, the devices come mainly from China. So it’s hard to build a company on this business today, says Zieliński.
He convinces that thousands of small businesses today do not have the potential or the resources to stay in business. The quarterly demand for photovoltaic installations has decreased significantly, while the importance of technology will increase. According to the CEO of Columbus, the winners are those companies that not only provide the customer with panels or heat pumps, but also IT solutions for energy cost management and, for example, “store” virtually energy in the same way as it was in the old billing system.
Time for big farms
In recent years, Poland has recorded a massive increase in capacity in solar power plants. In May this year, the total installed capacity in photovoltaics has already exceeded 10 GW. According to the report of the Institute of Renewable Energy (IEO), for almost 80 percent. the share in the installed capacity corresponds to prosumers whose number is close to a million. The report indicates that around 43.8 thousand people currently work in the photovoltaic installer industry. people.
The report also shows that in 2021 Poland most likely (not all countries confirmed the final and official data) came second, behind Germany, in terms of the increase in installed photovoltaic capacity in the European Union. Only last year, the increase in new capacity in Poland amounted to over 3.7 GW.
According to the latest IEO forecast, the photovoltaic market will maintain its growth dynamics in the coming years. Already at the end of this year, the capacity of all installed photovoltaic sources may reach 12 GW, in 2025 it will be 20 GW, and in 2030 even 28.5 GW.. This will be possible thanks to investments in higher capacity installations for companies and industry as well expected strong development of large solar farms.
Author: Barbara Oksińska, journalist of Business Insider Polska