Monday

27th May 2019

Focus

Europe can be 'proud' of its solar energy policy

Europe today may not enjoy the envy of the world as it continues to struggle with debts and deficits, but when it comes to solar energy, according to one US entrepreneur, Europe can be proud of itself.

It is not by chance that the old continent today is harnessing more solar energy than the rest of the world combined. It is by virtue of policy choices, such as subsidies and binding targets.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • The EU commission is considering dropping targets for renewable energy, leaving only those for CO2 reduction (Photo: TREC-UK)

"Policy support has been crucial to getting photovoltaics to this place in its development," according to industry association Epia.

Danny Kennedy, founder of California-based solar company Sungevity and former Greenpeace activist, agrees. “The policy has clearly worked,” he told EUobserver.

“Europe can be proud of the choices it has made,” he added.

One of those choices, in 2009, was to set binding renewable energy targets for each EU member state to reach by 2020.

This led many countries to introduce some sort of subsidy system.

But 2020 is approaching fast and some are calling for new targets to be set for the year 2030.

“It is about providing certainty to investors. Twenty-twenty no longer is long-term,” says Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout.

He chides the European Commission for its "very soft" attitude. The executive says it recognises the need for new targets but is considering dropping those for renewable energy, leaving only those for CO2 reduction. In this way, nuclear energy would count as well.

“Work is now beginning on what mix of policy instruments is appropriate,” commission energy spokesperson Marlene Holzner said.

Meanwhile, member states are cutting back on short-lived subsidies, creating what the solar panel industry calls "boom-and-bust cycles".

"There isn't a country in Europe that hasn't changed its [subsidy] law in the last two years," said Martin Simonek, renewable energy analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Many have simply been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new installations, as the price of solar panels continues to tumble and increasingly subsidies are something of a bonus on top of a good investment.

Still, without "the right policies in place", Epia warns, "the market [in Europe] will collapse".

The association, like all renewable energy enthusiasts, is keen to point out the hidden subsidies for traditional energy sources, such as oil and gas, whose infrastructure is often partly paid for by the state.

"Just as it was crucial to helping develop all other energy sources [...], the [solar] sector needs [subsidies] to finish closing the competitiveness gap," it says in its 2012 global market outlook.

Solar energy in figures: Germany is king

Europe is the undisputed sun king of the world, with close to 75 percent of globally installed solar panels. But there are big differences between countries, and Germany leads the pack.

Sillicon valley know-how aims to conquer EU solar market

The long list of California cool making its way into European homes got a little longer this year, when a solar company from Amsterdam acquired the license to a new technology to calculate a building’s propensity to generate solar power.

The growing pains of the solar industry

The solar industry is in disarray. But, experts say, this is nothing out of the ordinary. It is just going through a painful but necessary process.

Scandal around Slovak solar energy industry

When the Slovak government in 2009 allocated permits to build solar power plants, there was "widespread suspicion that it was rigged to benefit certain individuals," according to the US embassy in Bratislava. Prime Minister Fico denies the allegations.

Solar energy

Europe’s solar energy industry has been shaken by strong competition from China. EUobserver examines whether it has got what it takes to survive.

EUobserved

Jubilant Greens in party mood after first EP projection

A party like atmosphere has seized the Greens as a packed room of people discuss around food and drinks. Elsewhere, the centre-right EPP appear sombre, as they huddle around their computers behind closed doors.

2019 European election results

With 427 million possible voters, across 28 EU countries, electing 751 MEPs, it's the second-biggest democratic vote in the world. The results will come thick and fast - follow them here, via the European Parliament's official results site.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us