The current European Parliament has been a major solar champion and leaves a legacy as the ‘greenest’ Parliament on record. The European elections taking place from May 23 to 26 will be highly important to the solar sector, as certain political forces who don’t sense the urgency in transitioning to a renewables-based energy system could end up with much more influence than they have today.
The European Parliament has historically been a strong ally of the solar sector. Since the European Commission presented the Clean Energy Package in 2016, the Parliament has spearheaded calls for more ambitious targets, earning its label as the European Union’s ‘Green Champion.’ Indeed, the European Parliament rallied for a higher renewable energy target of 35% by 2030, which was also the recommendation of SolarPower Europe. In the end, a 32% target was settled on, which still means a doubling in the deployment of solar in Europe and the creation of thousands of clean energy jobs. No small feat!
Clean energy package
Thanks to the support of the European Parliament, the European Commission’s draft for a Clean Energy Package finally turned out to be a huge success for the solar sector. The legislation includes a strong framework for self-consumption and prosumers. In fact, all EU citizens have a new right to self-generate, consume, and store the energy they produce. Administrative procedures will be streamlined so that permitting new installations can take no more than one year – this will significantly reduce the soft costs of solar.
The deal provides the freedom for countries to launch solar-specific tenders, a major bonus for the sector which will help support the deployment of even greater volumes. The Clean Energy Package also ensures a “future-proof” electricity market for increasing uptake of solar and new sources of flexibility, such as storage and active consumers. Finally, the introduction of an emissions limit in capacity mechanisms is a step towards a net zero emissions EU economy by 2050. All in all, a very good deal for solar in Europe!
What’s at stake for solar?
The answer is: plenty! The EU’s 2050 climate and energy strategy will be highly important for the solar sector. This is the EU’s strategy for achieving its long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050. It will be crucial to have MEPs that are committed to solar and help ensure our clean energy technology is the leading contributor to the EU’s 2050 climate strategy.
According to a new study by Energy Watch Group and LUT University of Finland, 100% renewable energy across all sectors is possible by 2050 with solar leading the way. In fact, the study finds that solar could become the largest and most affordable energy source, meeting up to 69% of global energy demand. We need MEPs that will unleash the huge potential of solar!
The discussions on how to facilitate sector coupling are underway. For the solar sector it will be critical that the European Parliament helps integrate renewables even more in sectors such as mobility, buildings, and industry – where meaningful, renewable electrons should also be transformed into renewable molecules. Green hydrogen if produced from renewable electricity can be a jigsaw piece in the energy transition.
The next European Parliament should also ensure that the objectives set out in the Clean Energy Package will be fulfilled by member states. The National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) currently being penned by member states must be ambitious enough to reach the 32% renewables target.
The European Parliament has been a major solar driving force. Today, there is significant solar momentum in Europe, with a 36% increase in solar installations in 2018 and an even better year ahead is expected. Yet, according to election polls, we might see an influx of some political forces in the European Parliament who don’t share the immediacy to accelerate the clean energy transition – risking a setback for solar and renewable energies. We encourage all European citizens concerned about climate change to vote in the European elections – we need a solar-friendly Parliament!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.