In 2015, solar capacity in Europe grew by 15%, with 8 GW connected to the grid, according to trade organization SolarPower Europe, the events organizer. Global grid-connected solar increased 25% to an estimated 50.1 GW in 2015, up from 40.2 GW in 2014.
"2015 was an extremely successful year for solar and after three consecutive years of decline in Europe it is especially encouraging to see the sector grow again" says SolarPower Europe President Oliver Schafer.
The United Kingdom, Germany and France accounted for the lions share of solar capacity in Europe last year with 75% of the connections, equaling 5.3 GW. The share of the three countries was on par with the previous year at 75%, although that percentage equaled 6 GW in 2014. The U.K. took first place for the second year in a row with an estimated 3.7 GW.
With nearly 100 GW of installed capacity, Europe is still the most solarized continent. No other region can boast solar shares as high as Europe — on average nearly 4% of electricity consumption and in its most mature markets, such as Germany, Greece and Italy, around 8%.
"The challenge is now to quickly master the transition phase — from European solar markets that grew on very high premium feed-in tariff incentives, to new market-based frameworks, where prosumers use solar power for self-consumption in residential, commercial and industrial sectors," said SolarPower Europe CEO James Watson. "We must now create a smart market design that builds on the strengths of the solar power technology to be able to profit from the low cost solar has achieved."
On a global level, new solar power capacity increased by 25%, adding 50 GW in 2015. An estimate 228 GW of solar power are now installed in the world, up from 178 GW in 2014. The two biggest markets are again located in Asia — China and Japan — while the U.S. ranked third.
China not only added more than twice as much solar as Europe, it also exceeded 40 GW of total installed capacity, taking over the No. 1 spot from long-time leader Germany.
In its analysis, SolarPower Europe examined grid-connected solar rather than product shipments or installations.