European solar PV trade group SolarPower Europe, formerly EPIA, said cumulative global PV demand could reach 540GW in 2020, during the opening presentations at the 2015 Intersolar Europe conference. 

Providing an update to the European market, which is treading water except the UK, James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe said that Europe still requires the “right market design so that it can continue to contribute its strong support for Europe to reach its clean energy targets.”

As a whole the European market installed only 7GW in 2014, down from just over 10GW in 2013. Europe’s largest market was the UK in 2014, installing 2.4GW.

According to Watson Europe is in transition, characterised by market contraction and different levels of government support, which now includes a number of “zombie markets,” such as Spain, noted Watson. 

However, SolarPower Europe believes there is a self sustaining aspect to the European market. In a policy support environment, 160GW of cumulative installs could occur by the end of 2019. Yet 140GW was seen by the trade association as a more realistic figure. 

Painting a positive picture of Europe, SolarPower Europe noted three European markets, Germany, Italy and Greece had already reported that PV covers more than 7% of the electricity demand, indicating a tipping point in the fundamental European energy market has been reached.

What that means for future potential growth or changes in individual government policies towards solar was not clear and little concrete action or achievements to get governments to provide the right conditions remained elusive. 

However, the residential market in Europe was expected to remain the key sector and PV power plants larger than 5MW was unlikely to return. 

Solar power could still grow by 80% in Europe by 2020, according to the trade association.