Solar power has come a long way in order to spark Europe’s plans of a sustainable energy transition. Within the last ten years, state subsidies have helped renewable energies – foremost solar power – to flourish.
Until recently, solar power was widely considered a minor source of energy and a grassroots technology. Only few citizens would decide to invest in a solar cell for their home in an attempt to reduce their carbon footprint so that, back in 2005, Europe produced only 3 GW of solar power.
Reduced costs are the key to success
However, “every 24 hours, enough sunlight touches the Earth to provide the energy for the entire planet for 24 years“, says Martha Maeda, author of “How to Solar Power Your Home”, and expresses what Europe soon became aware of: the importance of renewable energies and the major role they deserve. Over the course of the following years, new developments in technology made it possible to reduce costs by as much as 80%, while more and more of Europe’s nations cooperated in following the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive.
All of these factors laid the way for a major milestone that has recently been reached: in the second quarter of 2016, Europe surpassed 100 GW of grid-connected solar PV capacity, hence exceeding that of China, the U.S. and Japan combined and corresponding to 30 million solar-powered homes in Europe.
New challenges ahead for solar power
In order to celebrate these recent developments, SolarPower Europe, the industry association, held a celebratory event in Brussels on 29 September 2016 attended by a large number of key figures of the industry. Despite the remarkable progress, some participants of the event expressed their concern regarding the future of the solar industry, as do leading experts of the sector. Josefin Berg, senior analyst for IHS Technology, thinks that we are “in an increasingly regulated environment,”, so that “the European PV industry now faces new challenges in installing the next 100 gigawatts.”
“We hope that the European Commission’s forthcoming market design reform and Renewable Energy Directive will pave the way for the 200 gigawatt benchmark.” – James Watson, SolarPower (CEO)
However, the EU seems aware of this and is acting fast to pave the way for an increase in capacity. The shared target of the EU nations is to have 27% of our energy and 50% of our electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030. Hence a revision of the Renewable Energy Directive and the Energy Union Governance has been scheduled for late 2016 in order to discuss further steps on the road to this goal.
With the cost of a solar PV system is set to fall further by another 20-40% by 2018, chances are good that the industry will continue to grow, as it should. “We hope that the European Commission’s forthcoming market design reform and Renewable Energy Directive will pave the way for the 200 gigawatt benchmark”, says James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe. In order to spread the word and make the topic even more present, solar supporters are invited to use the hashtag #EUsolar100GW.