Amidst a backdrop of EU initiatives to reduce reliance on Russian oil and gas, renewables such as solar will be major beneficiaries. The European Commission’s RePower EU strategy aims to wean European countries off of Russian fossil fuels by 2030, partly by adding 420 GW of solar capacity, bringing total installed capacity to 585 GW.
On the other hand, industry association SolarPower Europe’s business-as-usual, most-likely scenario already predicts 672 GW of EU solar by 2030 but it believes that “the necessary level of ambition through an accelerated, high scenario can achieve [cumulative installations of] over 1 TW of solar in the EU by 2030.” This would require a total investment of close to €800 billion ($843 million).
In response to the European Commission’s proposals, and in recognition of the renewed geopolitical urgency of the renewables transition, SolarPower Europe has published a pathway to the solar TW level in Europe. SolarPower Europe believes that if barriers to growth are removed and, importantly, local manufacturing is established, the1 1 TW is achievable.
The four key SolarPower Europe policy points are:
1. Multiply rooftop PV development Through mandatory solar on new buildings, bans on fossil-fuel boilers, and significant investment
2. Facilitate utility-scale development by freezing grid connection fees, and mandating member states to identify suitable solar PV sites, aiming to fast-track developments
3. Pave the way for smart solar and hybrid projects by using dedicated CEF-E and RRF funding, and a new EU Commission taskforce for hybrid projects access to flexibility markets
4. Accelerate the deployment of EU solar PV manufacturing capacity with €1bn de-risking funding from InvestEU & Innovation Funds.
Image: SolarPower Europe
Deployment of local solar PV manufacturing capacity raises an important point. The EU, and the world in fact, is highly dependent on China for supply of solar modules. Given China’s close relationship with Russia, does it not make sense to reduce its reliance on China as an indirect source of energy?
A localized EU production capability would extent to the plastic inputs required for module manufacture, including encapsulant film, which is also dominated at present by Chinese players. It might be that Chinese encapsulant sheet suppliers choose to invest in Europe, or European suppliers step up production. Whatever the case, the EU’s renewable drive will transform the global solar energy sector.