The annual report released by Solar Power Europe contains a remarkable prediction. The report suggests that the European Union (EU) is on track to achieve its 2030 renewable energy target three years ahead of schedule.
According to CleanTechnica, 23 countries will achieve their solar installation targets by 2027, which is earlier than the original goal of 2030. This aligns with the global trend and results in the mitigation of millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions beyond the initial predictions.
Javier Esparrago, an energy expert at the European Environment Agency, is encouraged by the news that the EU will beat its solar energy goal early. He attributes the rapid expansion to the 90 percent decrease in the cost of solar power per kilowatt-hour over the past decade.
Additionally, the conflict in Ukraine has stimulated countries to prioritize solar installations as a means to reduce their reliance on Russian energy.
However, the increasing adoption of solar energy does pose some challenges. Midday energy prices often experience a significant decline. Meanwhile, the insufficient availability of battery storage facilities results in the wastage of solar energy during periods of low demand.
This issue has prompted grid operators to impose shutdowns on solar plants.
In response to these concerns, 19 European solar and renewables associations have written to the European Commission, emphasizing the need to stop these practices. Enhancements to energy storage systems are crucial to facilitate further integration of renewable energy into national grids.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is commonly known for making conservative forecasts, possibly to avoid creating false expectations.
However, in June, the IEA significantly revised its renewable energy forecast for the European Union, increasing it by 38%. This revision was primarily due to a substantial surge in residential and commercial solar installations.
According to Jenny Chase, a solar analyst at BloombergNEF, even the IEA’s most optimistic predictions have consistently fallen short of market realities. One reason for this is the challenge of accurately estimating annual improvements in the cost and efficiency of Chinese solar panel manufacturing.
Chase also notes that solar deployment has been rapidly evolving, making it difficult to predict when it will plateau. These prediction errors could mean that global efforts to combat climate change are surpassing expectations, especially as major economies are actively embracing solar energy.
The IEA found that solar deployment in 2022 resulted in a reduction of 230 million tons of CO2 emissions globally, roughly double the annual emissions of Belgium.
Difficulties going forward
Looking ahead, there are challenges in ensuring the longevity of the solar boom. These challenges include addressing grid congestion and providing sufficient training for the approximately 1 million skilled workers that will be needed in the solar sector by 2030.
Raffaele Rossi, the head of market intelligence at SolarPower Europe, emphasizes the need for vocational training schemes to overcome these issues.
The EU is aiming to decrease its dependency on China for solar production and repatriate manufacturing. However, this strategy poses the risk of creating overly strict import criteria, which could impede growth.
According to Rossi, the EU Commission’s proposed Net Zero Industry Act, which establishes new domestic solar manufacturing goals by 2030, should be developed in a well-balanced manner. It’s important to set a goal that is both realistic and ambitious to drive progress in the sector.