1. The Bottom Line
Brehaut: The value of solar energy is overall lower in America than in Europe, and the U.S. investment tax credit (ITC) is not a production-based incentive. European feed-in tariffs, on the other hand, tend to put a higher price on every kWh produced, so they encourage adoption of production-enhancing technologies and O&M services.
The prevalence of ‘third-party ownership’ financing – such as solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) and leases -- in the U.S. tends to produce large portfolios of assets in the hands of few operators, while European markets show a fragmentation of assets across a variety of investors (large and small).
2. The “Fix It First” or “Leave it Alone” Mindset
Neufink: In Germany generally the mindset toward O&M is influenced by the cultural proclivity to “fix it before it breaks” versus the U.S. mantra of “never fix it until it is broken.” There are disadvantages to both. Fixes to operating components that may still have life can negatively impact the investor’s return on investment. On the other hand, fixes that wait until energy generation is affected tend to cost more in the long run.
Papaeconomou: The O&M concept is better understood in the U.S. than Europe. Probably because the U.S. is a more services agnostic market, whereas Europeans tend to undervalue services. We see already a lot of companies in America that have identified the market need for O&M services. In Europe this process took some years whereas in the U.S. such services are better understood despite the market being much younger than Europe.