Photovoltaic solar against gas imports in Europe

The development of solar photovoltaic energy has enabled the European Union to produce 12% of its electricity from solar photovoltaic between May and August 2022. A good way to save Russian gas, according to a report by the think tank Ember .

Between May and August 2022, all European solar photovoltaic production amounted to 99.4 terawatt hours (TWh), up 28% compared to the same period in 2021. Solar photovoltaic thus ensured on the been 12% of the European Union’s electricity production. This is more than wind power (11.7%), than hydroelectricity (11%), but still less than coal (16.5%). The analysts of Ember think tank estimate in a new report that this has avoided the import of 20 billion cubic meters of gas, or 29 billion euros of imports of gasat the current price.

18 of the 27 EU countries recorded new solar production records this summer. Solar takes a particularly large share of the electricity generation over the period in the Netherlands (23%), Germany (19%) and Spain (17%). The Netherlands wins the first place, despite a more modest irradiation of the country as a more northern country. This is thanks to a 30% increase in installed capacity in 2021, from 11 to 14 gigawatts (GW), notes Ember. France also reached a record, but remains behind, with a solar share of 7.7% in its electricity production, behind Poland (8%).

Betting on solar development plans

As gas prices soar to their own highs this summer, betting on solar development plans could ultimately pay off. The Dutch TTF¹ futures contract, the benchmark for the European natural gas market, traded at its all-time high of €313 per megawatt hour (€/MWh) on August 29, reports Ember. Between May and August, it averaged €148/MWh. This represents an increase of €110/MWh compared to the same period in 2021 when the price was €38/MWh. Gas prices for contracts for the coming winter are currently trading at €242/MWh versus €28/MWh, Ember adds.

Experts expect gas price records to last for at least another three years. “It is clear that we need as much solar energy as possible, said Paweł Czyżak, principal analyst at Ember, quoted in a press release. The European Parliament has the perfect opportunity to give it to us by adopting the 45% renewable energy target and setting Europe on the path to 600 GW or more solar capacity by 2030.”

Solar growth that is accelerating, but largely insufficient

The growth of solar production is accelerating. In the summer of 2022, the increase in production reached 22 TWh, compared to +8 TWh in 2021, +10 TWh in 2020 and +2 TWh in 2019. “This is largely due to steady 15% year-over-year increases in installed solar capacity, from 104 GW in 2018 to 162 GW in 2021, with 23 GW added in 2021 alone”explains Ember.

But the installations will have to be accelerated very quickly to achieve the renewable energy objectives set by the REPowerEU plan. The European Commission’s proposal aims to increase to 45% the share of renewable energies in its energy mix in 2030. This would go beyond the 40% forecast for the same deadline by the initial revision of the directive on renewable energies of the Fit-for-55 package.

The REPowerEU plan still under discussion aims to bring into service, by 2025, more than 320 GW of new photovoltaic solar panel capacity. This is double the installed capacity at the end of 2021. New capacities would increase to 600 GW by 2030.

¹ Financial transaction tax

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