Solar Power in Europe

The Rise of Solar Power in Europe

In recent decades, the countries of the European Union have been heavily dependent on natural gas for their energy needs. However, with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, leaders in those nations have had to come together to rethink their energy strategy. In response to the energy market disruptions caused by the war, the European Commission devised the REPowerEU Plan.

There are three areas of focus within the plan:

  • Saving Energy: promoting behavioral changes among the citizenry, business and industry to reduce energy usage.
  • Producing Clean Energy: accelerating the transition to green energy sources, particularly wind and solar.
  • Diversifying Energy Supplies: finding new sources of gas, oil, coal, and hydrogen.

To achieve the goals of the REPowerEU Plan, the Commission has identified a variety of areas where governments and communities can take action:

  • Some Short-Term Measures:
    • Developing partnerships with new, reliable energy suppliers
    • Rapid development of solar, wind, and hydrogen power projects.
    • Increased production of biomethane
  • Some Medium-Term Measures:
    • Investing €3 billion in projects to boost industrial decarbonization
    • Investing in integrated gas and electricity infrastructure
    • Raising the EU target for energy savings efficiency from 9% to 13% by 2030
    • Increasing the EU target for renewable energy production in 2030 from 40% to 45%

What is solar power?

The term “solar power” refers to the conversion of the sun’s light and radiation into either electricity or heat for use in homes, businesses, and all kinds of industry. There are three ways to produce solar energy:

  • Photovoltaics: the use of solar cells to convert light into electricity; may be deployed on the ground, on rooftops, or floating in water
  • Concentrated Solar Power: the use of mirrors to direct sunlight onto a water reservoir that powers a steam turbine to create electricity
  • Solar Thermal Energy: the collection of the sun’s rays to provide heat for residential buildings, office buildings, and certain industrial applications
A concentrated solar power project

The EU Solar Energy Strategy

As part of the REPowerEU Plan, the European Commission has also adopted the EU Solar Energy Strategy. The strategy proposes three initiatives, which, together, aim to enable the generation of approximately 600 gigawatts of power through solar energy by the year 2030.

  • European Solar Rooftops Initiative: introduces an obligation for public, commercial, and residential buildings to gradually incorporate solar energy into their infrastructure
  • EU Large-Scale Skills Partnership: a program to promote the development of a skilled workforce within the solar energy sector
  • EU Solar PV Industry Alliance: promotes the diversification of supply chains and European production of photovoltaic cells
Installation of rooftop solar panels

The state of solar energy in the EU

European countries have made significant progress in developing solar energy production, especially within the past several years. The solar photovoltaic (PV) industry is expected to create over 1 million new jobs by 2030. In 2021, PV energy accounted for 5.5% of the EU’s gross electricity output, with solar power in Europe increasing by nearly 50% in 2022 alone. EU countries installed enough solar power this year (41.4 gigawatts) to power over 12 million homes. These trends, experts believe, will displace the consumption of 9 billion cubic meters of natural gas by 2027.

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