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Sunny side up: EU Solar generation hits new summer peak

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

According to a new analysis by energy think tank Ember, solar panels for the first time, generated a tenth of EU-27 electricity during their peak months of June and July this year. However, the annual growth in solar output would need to double to meet the European Union's 2030 emission targets

As claimed by Ember, the new solar generation records were set in eight (8) EU countries including Spain and Germany. That said, solar panels still generated less electricity than Europe’s coal power plants, even during the height of their summer peak and according to Ember, annual growth in solar output needs to double to meet the EU’s 2030 emissions targets.

Eight EU countries set a new solar record share

Ember's analysis shows that the summer peaks in solar generation that typically happen in June and July are increasing every year in Europe. According to Ember solar panels generated a record 10% of EU electricity (39 TWh) in June-July 2021, up from 28 TWh in the same period in 2018. Additionally,  the EU witnessed a 5.1 TWh rise in solar generation between June-July 2020 and 2021, a large year-on-year change in 2020 (+3.1 TWh) or 2019 (+2.6 TWh).

The eight EU countries that set new solar record shares during the summer peak this year include Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. 

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

Furthermore, the analysis states that Hungary has quadrupled its solar share since June-July 2018, while the solar share in the Netherlands and Spain has doubled. Estonia and Poland have gone from near-zero solar levels in 2018 to 10% and 5% respectively in June-July 2021.

In Hungary, solar power overtook coal for the first time this summer, a milestone that had been reached in the previous year in Greece and Portugal. Moreover, Hungary witnessed a solar power increase from 3%  in June-July 2018 to 12% in the same period in 2021. Meanwhile, Hungary's coal power fell from 17% to 10% this summer said Ember.

Solar market poised for further growth

Despite the records broken, Ember found that the EU's electricity generation from solar panels still remains less than coal power plants which generated 14% of the EU's electricity in June-July 2021 (58 TWh). 

The EU-27 has added 14 TWh of solar generation every year on average in the last two years. However, according to the European Commission, annual growth in the next decade must double to 30 TWh in order to meet the EU’s new 2030 climate targets.

According to Ember, the solar market is poised to support the growth required. It is now 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. The global average Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOEs) for utility-scale solar photovoltaic has collapsed from $381/MWh USD in 2010 to $57/MWh in 2020.

"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" said Charles Moore, Europe lead at Ember.