The chief scientist of a leading global solar company says that the great PV price decline is over and customers cannot expect to buy the best modules at the cheapest cost.

Dr Pierre Verlinden of Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL) told the PVSEC Europe conference in Paris that “reliability is expensive”.

“PV companies cannot offer the highest quality module at the lowest cost,” he said. “But what we can do is offer a highly reliable product that is adapted to a particular climate… and educate customers about the particular attributes of PV modules.”

In his keynote speech, Dr Verlinden stated that it was his firm belief that prices will stay constant, suggesting that the key challenge for the industry in future will be identifying how to regain sufficient gross margin to maintain profitability and sustainable growth.

He asked: “If prices have reached bottom and will stay more or less flat, what factors will shape customer decisions? What differentiates PV products from each other?

“Customers are now more educated and have more information available to them, such as independent laboratory test results. Customer decisions will be now based mainly on two key factors: reliability and levelised cost of electricity,” he said.