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Solar panels produced nearly 10 per cent of the EU’s electricity during this year’s sunny summer months, a marked increase from just over 6 per cent three years ago, according to data from energy think-tank Ember.
Eight countries in the 27-nation bloc, including Germany and Spain, set new solar records in the months of June and July.
However, solar still generated less power than Europe’s coal plants which produced 14 per cent of EU electricity this summer.
“Europe has had a record-breaking summer for solar power, but it is yet to harness its full potential,” said Charles Moore, Ember’s Europe lead.
“The cost of solar power has tumbled in the last decade and we are seeing the first signs of Europe’s solar revolution. However, there is a long way to go before solar provides more power than fossil fuels, even in the height of Europe’s summer sun,” he said.
Investments in solar energy have accelerated in recent years as prices have fallen and interest among companies and governments in achieving net zero emissions has grown.
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The International Renewable Energy Agency said this year that the amount of renewable energy added to global power systems that was cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives doubled in 2020 compared to the previous year. Onshore wind and solar facilities, in particular, had undercut new fossil fuel alternatives, it said.
Within the EU, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain generated the largest proportion of their electricity — nearly a fifth — from solar power this summer.
Hungary and Estonia, both of which generated very little solar power in 2018, recorded significant increases this year. The countries relied on solar to produce around 12 and 10 per cent of their electricity, respectively. Solar power also overtook coal in Hungary this summer for the first time.
Moore said those large jumps were “driven by the combination of supportive policies and plummeting costs”.
“This demonstrates that where there is political will, a rapid decarbonisation of the electricity grid is within our grasp,” he said.
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