This free to download here takes a look at the current state of Europe’s solar sector and the issues its faces today.
2008, marks the “take-off” and later boom in worldwide solar PV installations fostered by the climate agenda and enabled by generous government subsidies and an 80 percent price-fall since 2010. Another striking feature is the geographical diffusion of solar PV. In 2017, 29 countries had more than 1 GW of PV installed capacity. Seven countries had more than 10 GW; four exceeded 40 GW each, all dwarfed by China with 131 GW of installed capacity. Germany, a pioneer and leader for many years, with 43 GW of installed solar capacity lost out to the US with 51 GW and Japan with 49 GW. China now leads in total solar energy capacity followed by Europe with 114 GW.
Global solar PV capacity is expected to double again from 306.5 GW in 2016 to 740 GW by 2022, ushering in another virtuous circle of cost reductions – the fruits of the “learning rate” and economies of scale.
The deployment of solar power in Europe owes much to the EU’s pioneering lead towards a low-carbon economy through policies designed to increase energy efficiency and to reach ambitious CO2 reduction targets by 2020, incentivised by generous subsidies. Five countries, Germany, Italy, the UK, France, and Spain combined operate around 77 percent of Europe’s solar power fleet. Germany and Italy together account for over half.
Remarkably, 64 percent of solar systems in the EU are installed on rooftops, 26 percent of them residential, 18 percent commercial and 20 percent industrial. Investors, developers, and independent power producers with power purchase agreements dominate the ground-mounted utility-scale plants segment.
The key drivers of this solar revolution in Europe, over and above the EU’s climate agenda and availability of subsidies, were the plummeting price of solar PV, which fell by a staggering 40 percent between 2015 and 2016, and made solar cost-effective against other power generation technologies and attractive to the rooftop market segment. These factors together with the availability of capital and willing investors have encouraged utility-scale solar farms. However, the era of generous government incentives is ending. Solar, like wind, must be able to compete in the market without government support.
The EU’s renewables target of 34 percent by 2030 would raise the share of renewable energy in the power sector to 50 percent and envisages solar PV being used in building materials, heating and cooling systems, powering of trucks, vehicles, and a greater uptake by energy intensive industries. The prospect of an effective price for carbon, advances in technology and improved cell efficiency combined with government targets give a degree of confidence for future private sector investment in solar PV.