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The former director of Fraunhofer ISE will be officially elected at a general assembly planned for September. The ESCM wants a strong Europe to be part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and also pay attention to sustainability.

The board of the European Solar Manufacturing Council (ESMC) has appointed Eicke Weber as provisional chairman. Official confirmation of the appointment is planned for a general assembly of members expected in September.

The association, which unites European PV manufacturers, research institutes and equipment makers lobbies on behalf of its members’ policy interests at the EU.

“Voters in Europe are very concerned about climate change and find that most established parties do not adequately address the issue,” Weber said upon his election. “At the same time, people in more and more parts of Europe fear losing their industry and its jobs. What we need is an ‘industry 4.0’ for smart and digitized production in a sustainable way,” added Weber, referring to the Fourth Industrial Revolution expected from automation and digitization.

According to the ESCM, combating climate change is still considered an economic burden in the political debate. “If you operate an ambitious climate protection policy you create an economic advantage for the manufacturing industry in Europe compared to other countries,” said Weber. Such an advantage would only apply, however, if imported goods had to align with the same standards as EU products.

Policy suggestions

The trade association has drawn up policies which could aid sustainable construction in Europe, including clean, carbon neutral pricing; application of the EU Sustainable Procurement Framework; consideration of carbon footprints in policy development and state aid; use of ecolabels and eco design; and better access to finance and research funding.

“The tools identified by the ESMC are urgently needed to enable investment in the sustainable production of the EU solar industry,” said the lobby group’s Giulia Serra. She is convinced a European climate change and industrial policy would prevent companies moving jobs from Europe to low cost labor markets in Asia. “For example, the implementation of carbon footprint thresholds would offset cost penalties on imports from high-emission countries and support further investment in Europe,” said Serra.

A first step in that direction was taken by the EU Council, which last week approved the requirements of the EU Industrial Policy Initiative, essentially addressing some of the ESMC’s concerns. The aim of the new initiative is to secure Europe’s key role in the anticipated mass development of solar energy capacity worldwide.

The ESMC was launched at last year’s EU PVSEC conference in Brussels. Two-thirds of the founding members are manufacturers and suppliers from the solar industry with around a third representing research institutes. As industrial businesses fear falling behind Asian – and especially Chinese – PV manufacturers, researchers are concerned about losing companies as development partners.

Full article in PV magazine here.