Tuesday

31st May 2016

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

Investigation

EU never used power to scrutinise emissions labs

The commission has had the power to compel states to send assessments of the companies that test car emissions since 2007, but it has never made a single request.

MEPs fast-track EU border guard plan

EU parliament gives thumbs up to controversial plan for new border guard force that can be deployed to EU states even if they do not want it. Force could be operational by autumn.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceSugar-Sweetened Beverage Sales Barometer Unveils Unhealthy Drinking Patterns in Europe
  2. EJCWelcomes EU Commission Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online
  3. Access NowEDRi & Access Now Withdraw From the EU Commission IT Forum Discussions
  4. EJCCalls on EU Parliament to Take Action Against MEP who Compared Israelis to "a rash"
  5. EU Sustainable Energy WeekHave Your Say On Europe's Energy Future At Our High-Level Policy Conference.
  6. CESIUpcoming On June 14: CESI@Noon On ‘Labour Market Integration Of Regugees’
  7. ACCAEducation and Training 2020 - Giving Young People the Workplace Skills They Need
  8. EPSUTrade Unions Back New Undeclared Work Platform
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCould targeting children’s fitness boost academic performance?
  10. World VisionDeclares the World Humanitarian Summit a Positive Step in a Longer Journey to Ending Need
  11. EJCPresident Dr. Moshe Kantor on Brexit and the Jewish Question
  12. Swedish EnterprisesNew Rules For Posted Workers - Better Protection or the End of Posting ?