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11th June 2024

Dinesh Dhamija: Solar Tops European Growth Chart

Dinesh Dhamija

In each of the past few years, Prague-based Raylyst Solar’s annual revenue rose by an average of 824 per cent until it topped €111 million – the number one fastest-growing company in Europe in the latest FT 1000 ranking.

Not far behind, in fourth spot, Germany’s Solar Drektinvest leapt by 385 per cent annually, while fellow German business Pader Solartechnik registered 335 per cent growth.

So, what lies behind solar’s dominance of the growth charts?

Partly it’s down to the EU’s Green Deal, a financing initiative to speed the transition from fossil fuels, along with record-high oil and gas prices and European countries’ efforts to diversify from the hydrocarbon market, disrupted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s also a reflection of the low cost and high availability of Chinese-made solar panels. In 2018, 21-year-old Jan Kameníček, the company’s founder and chief executive, discovered EU anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panels had ended. Today he imports container-loads of panels from China to Rotterdam and onwards into the German, Italian and Austrian markets, supplying companies keen to meet climate goals and use a sustainable source of energy.

It is a classic story of spotting a gap in the market, taking a chance – he borrowed money from his parents to rent a warehouse – and meeting demand for a high-quality product at a discounted price. I applaud his entrepreneurial flair. Europe’s solar panel manufacturers are struggling to compete with Chinese rivals, since there is nothing like the same level of subsidy available over here. Kameníček would do business with European companies if their products were affordable, but he warns that anti-Chinese protectionism on security grounds – along the same lines as TikTok or Huawei – would be misplaced. “Modules are not intelligent devices. They cannot be controlled. So, I don’t see any real danger,” he says. For Europeans to compete, they would need massive state subsidies, says Kameníček. “There is no other way they can survive against these gigantic companies in China that mine their own material.”

Brussels is considering giving subsidies to European solar panel manufacturers, which could assist consumers, by providing them with more choice. What’s clear is that the demand for solar energy is rising faster than ever, as the technology improves, the disadvantages – environmental, geopolitical and financial – of fossil fuels grow ever more obvious and the world grows ever warmer.

Shrewd businesspeople like Jan Kameníček are making hay while the sun shines.

Dinesh Dhamija founded, built and sold online travel agency ebookers.com, before serving as a Member of the European Parliament. Since then, he has created the largest solar PV and hydrogen businesses in Romania. Dinesh’s latest book is The Indian Century – buy it from Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1738441407/

 

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