Solar power in the Europe Union has again demonstrated a stellar performance in 2021 despite adverse market conditions on various fronts – from the continued negative effects of COVID-19 on our daily lives, to PV product supply shortages and consequent solar module price hikes.
As forecasted, demand for solar power in the European Union has grown significantly in 2021. The 27 member states of the European Union saw around 25.9 GW of new solar PV capacity connected to their grids in 2021, an increase of 34% over the 19.3 GW installed the year before. This growth makes 2021 not only another record year for solar in the EU, it was also the best year in history, taking place exactly one decade after the former record was set at 21.4 GW in 2011.
The new record number is 16% higher than SolarPower Europe’s forecast for 2021 in the previous EU Market Outlook, but 5% lower than indicated by SolarPower Europe’s research for the latest Global Market Outlook in mid 2021, when the supply shortage-related project delays were already evident but not the extent of its effects on solar deployments in the Europe Union.
At national level, two new countries have achieved GW scale installations levels in 2021, with Greece returning to the list and Denmark joining for the first time ever. The new additions bring the GW club membership to seven, with projections expecting this group to grow to 12 by 2025.
Like in the previous year, Germany is again Europe’s major solar market in 2021 with 5.3 GW of newly installed capacity, representing an 8% growth since 2020, followed by Spain (3.8 GW), the Netherlands (3.3 GW), Poland (3.2 GW) and France (2.5 GW). In 2021, the Top 5 markets in the European Union have stayed the same, and among the Top 10, there are only 2 newcomers that are from northern Europe (Denmark and Sweden), replacing two established PV markets, one in central Europe (Belgium), the other in the south (Portugal). In 2021, 25 of 27 EU member states deployed more solar than the year before.
The EU’s solar power generation fleet increased by 19% to 164.9 GW, from 139 GW in 2020, when growth was also in the two-digit level, but at 16% a little lower. The European Union’s solar power plant portfolio is still dominated by two countries – Germany (59.9 GW) and Italy (22 GW) operate around 50% of solar power generation assets today, although the share is declining – in 2020, its combined share was 55%.
As impressive as Germany’s newly installed annual capacity and its operating power fleet at the end of 2021 is, when it comes to solar power per capita, the EU’s most populated member state is no longer No. 1 – that honour now goes to the Netherlands, reaching 765 W/capita, 42% up from 2020.
Analysis of the solar developments in the context of the EU member states’ solar National Energy Climate Plans (NECPs) shows that two countries have already met their 2030 NECP targets in 2021, and over half of EU member states will meet their 2030 targets by the end of 2025.
For most member states, SolarPower Europe again expects more power additions in its 4-year installation forecasts than in last year’s outlook. Backed by the ambitious announcement from Germany’s new government to double its solar 2030 target to 200 GW, Europe’s leading market will become even more central to the continent’s solar sector. Germany is expected to install 47.7 GW by 2025, almost as much as we estimate for the three following solar markets together – Spain, the Netherlands, and France.
This year’s EU Market Outlook’s PV market scenarios 2022 to 2025 show continuous, two-digit annual growth rates that are all slightly higher than in SolarPower Europe’s previous edition. The Medium Scenario now forecasts 18-20% growth rates compared to 16-17% levels last year, adding around 162.7 GW, and reaching 327.6 GW by the end of 2025. According to the modelling of the Medium Scenario up to 2030, the total solar fleet in the EU will continue its strong growth to 672 GW in that year, with the annual installation rate reaching over 85 GW.
However, as outlined in the policy recommendations, SolarPower Europe asks for the European Commission and the Member States for much more ambition for the solar sector. By 2030, the EU needs to operate 870 GW of solar capacity across its territory to enable the most cost-efficient trajectory towards climate neutrality in 2050 and meet the 1.5 °C Paris target. The crucial foundation for this path is a EU renewables target of at least 45% for 2030.
Source: SolarPower Europe