Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

European solar electricity production reached a record high during the summer of 2022

Written by Eric Apim on Tuesday, September 13th 2022 à 11:45 | Read 583 times

Solar power production records in Southern Europe - Here Sicily - (photo: F.Dubessy)
Solar power production records in Southern Europe - Here Sicily - (photo: F.Dubessy)
EU. Photovoltaic panels installed in the European Union have broken their record in the summer of 2022 by producing 12.2% of the EU's electricity. This is revealed in a report by the think tank Ember. Published Thursday, September 8, 2022, it states that 99.4 TWh of electricity were produced between May and August against 77.7 TWh (9%) over the same period in 2021. That is a 28% increase from one year to the next.

Eighteen of the twenty-seven EU Member States have set records. While Germany is in the lead with 19.3% growth compared to 2021, they are mainly Mediterranean (Croatia was excluded from the study, as it imports 30% of its electricity demand) like Spain (+16.7%), Greece (+15.3%), Italy (+15.0%), Cyprus (+13.3%) and to a lesser extent Portugal (+9.3%), France (7.7%) and Slovenia (+3.1%).

In total, ten EU Member States generated more than one tenth of their electricity from solar panels in the summer of 2022. Despite a modest irradiation given its geographical position, the Netherlands is in the lead with 23% solar in its energy mix, followed by Germany (19%) and Spain (17%). At the European Union level, solar energy has now surpassed the share of wind power (11.7%), hydroelectricity (11%) and is approaching that of coal (16.5%).

Solar energy an essential substitute for fossil gas

Solar energy production jumped by 28% between the summer of 2021 and the summer of 2022 (graphic: Ember)
Solar energy production jumped by 28% between the summer of 2021 and the summer of 2022 (graphic: Ember)
"Europe is currently facing an energy crisis of unprecedented proportions. The depletion of fossil fuel reserves is driving electricity prices to unprecedented heights. The unavailability of a nuclear reactor in France and the drought that is limiting hydroelectricity production throughout Europe, among other things, are also weighing on the energy balance," Ember's report notes. "This is when solar power really shined, producing a record amount of electricity during the summer of 2022, keeping the lights on and reducing the EU's now critical gas consumption," the paper continues.

According to Ember, €29 billion in fossil gases were saved in four months thanks to the performance of photovoltaics. This is equivalent to the amount of gas (20 billion cubic meters) that would have had to be purchased in the absence of solar panels.

"Investments in solar capacity have paid off. Every terawatt hour of solar electricity has helped reduce our gas consumption, saving European citizens billions. It is clear that we need as much solar energy as possible," comments Paweł Czyżak. "The European Parliament has the perfect opportunity to give it to us by passing the 45% renewables target and putting Europe on the path to 600 GW of solar capacity or more by 2030," continues Ember's senior energy and climate data analyst.

The EU can do better

Dries Acke, policy director of SolarPower Europe (which groups 270 industry associations), relays this message, "Solar offers direct energy price relief to European households and industries. As European leaders consider emergency measures in the face of this unprecedented gas crisis, they should consider adopting national solar deployment programs now, using the funds available under the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism."

While the think tank's report emphasizes the need for further development, it also notes that "projections for the coming years fall short of the target, with annual capacity additions in 2026 reaching only 46 percent of the value required under a 1.5°C scenario. This is largely due to the granting of building permits and approvals." Ember points to "permitting bottlenecks" as being largely responsible and highlights that "several countries exceed legally binding limits on project development times". The paper calls for the removal of these barriers "to keep solar energy growing".


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