Solar power array

EU solar power now accounts for a tenth of all electricity generation

Image credit: Dreamstime

Solar panels generated a tenth of the EU’s electricity during June and July, which is a record high, analysis from climate think tank Ember has revealed.

But while new records were set in eight EU countries, including Spain and Germany, solar panels still generated less electricity than Europe’s coal power plants, even during the height of their summer peak.

The analysis also shows that annual growth in solar output needs to double to meet the EU’s 2030 emissions targets.

Solar panels generated a record 39TWh in June-July 2021, up from 28TWh in the same period in 2018, Ember said. Growth is also accelerating: the EU saw solar generation increase by 5.1TWh between June and July 2020 and 2021, a larger year-on-year change than in 2020 (+3.1TWh) or 2019 (+2.6TWh).

As part of a package of climate policies, the European Commission has proposed an overhaul of renewable energy rules, which decide how quickly the bloc must increase the use of sources such as wind, solar and biomass energy produced from burning wood pellets or chips.

Seven EU countries generated over a tenth of their electricity from solar panels in June-July 2021, with the Netherlands (17 per cent), Germany (17 per cent), Spain (16 per cent), Greece (13 per cent) and Italy (13 per cent) leading the way.

While the UK is not part of the EU anymore, earlier analysis from Ember found that the country ranked sixth in the world for its share of electricity produced from both wind and solar power.

Hungary has particularly ramped up its solar share, with a quadrupling in output since June-July 2018. For the first time this summer, solar overtook coal power in the country, a milestone that had already been reached the previous year in Greece and Portugal, and several years ago in the Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, Austria and Belgium.

It is now costs half the price to generate electricity from new solar panels than existing fossil plants across major markets including Germany, the UK, Italy, France and Spain.

Charles Moore, Ember’s Europe lead, said: “Europe has had a record-breaking summer for solar power, but it is yet to harness its full potential.

“The cost of solar power has tumbled in the last decade and we are seeing the first signs of Europe’s solar revolution in countries like Spain, the Netherlands, Hungary and even coal-heavy Poland.

“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. Weather extremes across Europe this summer have given governments an urgent wake-up call and now they must turn climate targets into climate action by stepping up solar deployment.”

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