2021 was a record year for solar, what next?
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On the eve of the holidays, the European Commission unveiled the latest package of its “Fit 55” legislative plan, which aims to cut emissions by 55% on the continent by 2030. These additional proposals include hydrogen and decarbonisation gas packages, as well as amendments to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
The solar industry can get itself excited about these new proposals from the European Commission. The unique role of ‘renewable’ hydrogen is secured through a new definition of ‘low carbon’ hydrogen, while proposals to create an open and integrated hydrogen market will empower consumers and ultimately support the development of renewable hydrogen. The push for renewable hydrogen should further encourage the development of solar and broader renewable energy.
The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive has clear benefits for solar energy and it will support the deployment of on-site solar energy and storage during building renovations. Following the adoption of the policy, following negotiations between the European Parliament and the European Council, the newly proposed building standards will also facilitate the installation of decentralized energy sources in new buildings – in particular through the zero-emission building standard. In a constructive step, we can expect a European framework to accelerate retrofitting of the worst performing buildings, with a view to reaching a zero-emission building stock by 2050. A new common template for European Energy Performance Certificates should harmonize the different Member States’ approaches to the energy framework, but ultimately more could be done to focus on the role of distributed energy sources, such as residential or SME solar installations. Let’s not forget that today more than 90% of the roofs in the EU are empty because they can support the fight against climate change with solar installations.
The European Commission’s proposal on December 15 came just hours before SolarPower Europe released its latest EU Solar Market Outlook 2021-25. Remarkably, the report revealed another banner year for solar in Europe – breaking the 2020 installation level with a 34% increase, equivalent to 25.9GW of new solar capacity in the EU. This makes 2021 Europe’s best year yet for solar – a decade-long installation record from 2011. As we celebrate, we must learn from our successes and accelerate our ambition to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
An increasing number of EU member states are reaching (or returning to) GW-scale annual solar installations. At least two member states – Estonia and Lithuania – have achieved their national energy and climate energy solar targets, with Poland, Ireland and Sweden expected to do so by 2022 – well ahead of the 2030 deadline. In 2021, all but two EU countries increased their solar power generation by more than the previous year. This forecast is even brighter than the most optimistic forecasts from a few years ago – in the most likely medium scenario, the cumulative capacity of the EU solar fleet will double in four years to 327.6GW by 2025, and by 672GW in 2030. We have all the more reason to hope that it is our duty to act to boost EU solar ambitions.
With solar data set to break records in our EU Market Outlook and more evidence than ever that solar can drive the renewable energy transition, SolarPower Europe has launched the Pro-45% RES campaign. The campaign is backed by eight energy and city associations and is supported by a growing number of leading scientists – including contributors to the IPCC’s recent climate crisis report – calling on European institutions to raise their renewable energy targets to at least 2030 45% of the target. Research from Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology, a top 10 global climate action agency, finds that the EU target of at least 45% renewable energy puts the continent on track to be the most cost-effective way to meet the 2030 climate goals. roads and limit dangerous warming above 1.5 ⁰C. Luxembourg’s energy minister, Claude Turmes, supports the campaign, noting that rooftop solar can play a huge role in business and industry.
Forecasts for the European solar industry are bright – cautious estimates have already projected 672GW of solar installations by 2030. The necessary 45% renewable energy target requires a cumulative capacity of 870GW. With growing support from policymakers, and the re-emergence of solar manufacturing in Europe (check out our new solar PV manufacturing map in our EU Market Outlook), we can achieve our goals.
In 2022, the European Commission will continue to negotiate with its co-legislators on the EPDBII document and the revised target-setting Renewable Energy Directive (REDIII). With these legislative proposals, we must not miss an opportunity for solar to decarbonize European buildings or to set the necessary renewable energy targets needed to protect the planet. SolarPower Europe is ready to process these documents and take the continent to a brighter future in 2022.
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