Solar energy technologies convert sunlight into energy, either as electricity (photovoltaics and concentrated solar power) or in the form of heat in the case of solar heat.
Solar is the source of energy that is growing at the highest pace in the EU. In 2020, the EU solar market grew by 18GW. Solar energy is cheap, clean, modular and flexible. The cost of solar power has decreased by 82% over the last decade, making it the most competitive source of electricity in many parts of the EU.
The EU has since long been a front-runner in the spread of solar energy. The European Green Deal and the REPowerEU plan in May 2022 have turned solar energy into a building block of the EU’s transition towards clean energy. The accelerated deployment of solar energy contributes to reducing the EU’s dependence on imported fossil fuels. In addition, solar energy is the most accessible renewable energy for households and contributes to shielding consumers from volatile energy prices.
EU solar energy strategy
In preparation of the EU solar energy strategy, a call for evidence and open public consultation questionnaire were published in January 2022, and run for 12 weeks. The Commission also organized a high-level virtual stakeholder conference on the EU solar strategy, as well as three workshops at technical level. The results of this consultation process fed into the drafting of the Communication on EU solar energy strategy (COM(2022)221), and are summarised in a synthesis report published alongside it.
Reflecting the crucial role of solar energy in its policies, the Commission adopted in May 2022 an EU solar energy strategy alongside the REPowerEU plan. The strategy takes a comprehensive approach to the solar energy sector, covering all technologies and demand. It identifies the barriers that are still preventing solar energy from fully playing its role in the energy transition and proposes measures to lift them.
In particular, the strategy proposes 3 initiatives
- a European Solar Rooftops Initiative to accelerate the deployment of solar energy in buildings. The initiative includes a proposal to gradually introduce an obligation to install solar energy in different types of buildings over the next years
- an EU large-scale skills partnership covering the renewable energy sector at large
- an EU Solar PV Industry Alliance, a forum for the sector’s stakeholders to collaborate towards increased production in the EU
Also adopted alongside the REPowerEU plan, the initiative on faster permitting for renewable energy projects will contribute to accelerate solar energy deployment in the EU.
Photovoltaics is a method to generate electric power by using solar cells to convert energy from the sun by photovoltaic effect. These solar cells are assembled into solar panels and then installed on the ground and rooftops, or floating on dams or lakes. The EU is funding many solar cells projects, such as the PERTPV project, in which perovskite-based materials were used to build a new type of solar cell.
The photovoltaic technology is becoming more widely used globally. Year on year, photovoltaics make up a bigger part of the EU’s energy mix. In 2021, the EU output of photovoltaic electricity accounted for 5,5% of the EU’s gross electricity output.
Continued growth in the solar energy sector is expected in the coming decades, mostly driven by increased self-consumption and more rooftop photovoltaics installation. This puts the EU at a competitive advantage, helping to drive economic growth and create jobs. By 2020, the solar PV industry created around 357,000 jobs, and it is expected to create 584,000 jobs by 2025, and around 1.1 million jobs by 2030, according to the industry.
Concentrated solar power
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants use mirrors to concentrate sunlight and produce heat and steam to generate electricity. They can be coupled to heat storage technologies to produce electricity both day and night. About 2.3 GW of concentrated solar power has been installed in the EU since 2013, but most new projects take place outside of the EU.
- Communication on EU solar energy strategy (COM(2022)221)
- Solar thermal and concentrated solar power barometer 2021
- Photovoltaic barometer 2020
- State-of-the-art for assessment of solar power technologies 2019
- Solar thermal and concentrated solar power barometer 2019 (EurObserv’ER)