The EU Solar Strategy marks a new dawn for the European solar market

La estrategia solar de la UE marca un nuevo amanecer para el mercado solar europeo

The European Commission has launched the landmark EU Solar Strategy. In light of the unprovoked Russian war on Ukraine, and the ensuing impact on energy security, as well as record energy prices, the Strategy comes months ahead of its initially foreseen summer publication. SolarPowerEurope has published its assessment of this new strategy, which we collect below

The European Commission has substantially increases 2030 solar targets to 740 GWdc, recognising solar’s central role in delivering for Europe’s security, economic, and climate goals. As part of the REPowerEU package, the European Commission proposes a Rooftop Initiative, an Industry Alliance, and a Skills Partnership for EU solar. The EU draft renewable target for 2030 is increased to 45%, coming alongside guidance to accelerate project permitting in EU member states.

Speaking to the media at the Strategy launch, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen said: “We are increasing the 2030 target for EU renewable energy from 40% to 45%. And we come with a host of actions to scale up and speed up the clean energy transition. For example, we are proposing to speed up permitting procedures for renewables and associated infrastructure like grids. We are proposing a solar rooftop obligation for commercial and public buildings by 2025 and for new residential buildings by 2029. This is ambitious but realistic”

At a subsequent press conference, EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said: “By 2030 the share of wind and solar energy in power production capacities should double from the current level of 33% to 67%. And by then solar energy will also be the largest electricity source in the EU with more than half coming from rooftops.”

The unprecedented EU Solar Strategy sets out a 592 GWac target for EU solar by 2030 – equivalent to 740 GWdc, the unit preferred by industry. This target is higher than SolarPower Europe Global Market Outlook business-as-usual projections of 672 GWdc by the end of the decade. From initial Fit for 55 package proposals that translated into 420 GWac of solar, this new 592 GWac goal increases EU solar ambition by 41%.

While the European Commission steps up solar ambition, a new proposed amendment to the Renewable Energy Directive, sees the Commission step up renewable ambition as a whole. The draft amendment includes a newly proposed 45% renewable target for 2030, in line with SolarPower Europe’s ‘Yes to 45% RES’ campaign.

Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe said: “Today is a watershed moment for EU solar, the continent’s energy security, and European climate commitments. The new EU Solar Strategy 740 GWdc target brings us that much closer to the Terawatt age of European solar. Along with a 45% renewable target, solar and wind are more empowered than ever to shield citizens from high energy prices. The European solar sector is ready to scale up and deliver on the ambition set out today.”

Reflecting even conservative estimates that European solar rooftops could provide around one quarter of EU electricity needs; a new EU Solar Rooftop Initiative taps into the significant potential of solar rooftops. Proposed measures within the Initiative include solar rooftops on all new residential buildings by 2029, and on all suitable public and commercial buildings by 2027. Such measures will be translated into legislation in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

Taking into consideration solar’s role in tackling energy poverty and current energy price hikes, the Initiative notes that vulnerable customers should have guaranteed access to solar energy – through social housing installations, energy communities, or financing support for individual installations. 

The EU Solar Strategy recognises the critical need to ensure a skilled solar workforce, proposing an EU Solar Skills Partnership. Citing SolarPower Europe’s EU Solar Jobs Report 2021, the Commission set out a plan to bring together solar and training stakeholders as part of a large-scale skills partnership within the EU Pact for Skills. Within the Partnership, local and private funding can be complemented by EU Funding – like the European Social Fund. Renewable Energy Directive proposals will also seek to ensure mutual recognition of certification schemes across the EU, based on common criteria. 

Dries Acke, Policy Director at SolarPower Europe said: “Solar rooftops are an immediate solution to the triple challenges of energy security, energy poverty, and climate emergency facing Europe. With no additional land needed, solar rooftops can provide a quarter of the EU electricity needs, and can be installed in as little as a day. Today the European Commission recognises the immense potential of rooftop solar – as well as the need for a solar workforce to roll out both rooftop and utility solar across Europe. We foresee up to 1.1 million solar jobs in Europe by 2030, and the EU Solar Skills Partnership will help deliver the workers on the ground.”

Following Commissioner Simson’s commitment to do ‘whatever it takes’ to redevelop European Solar Manufacturing, the EU Solar Strategy creates an EU Solar Industry Alliance, building on the work of the European Solar Initiative and endorsing its objective of at least 20 GW of solar PV manufacturing capacity by 2025. The Alliance will convene actors along the value chain, supporting new, more efficient, & sustainable technologies – including strong R&D links to the Horizon Europe programme. InvestEU, the Innovation Fund, and Cohesion policy funds are all set to be included within a new EU-level mechanism to coordinate funding for domestic solar manufacturing. 

Naomi Chevillard, Head of Regulatory Affairs at SolarPower Europe said: “A strong European solar manufacturing base supports the strategic resilience of the renewable transition, while unlocking millions of euros in GDP. The European Commission must now deliver a clear toolbox of measures, and coordinate EU financing to support reinvestment into manufacturing capacities. With the support of the EU Solar Industry Alliance, the European Solar Initiative is within reach of its first milestone – at least 20 GW along the value chain by 2025 – marking the rebirth of a fully-fledged EU solar manufacturing value-chain.”

Source: SolarPower Europe