The EU’s photovoltaics (PV) installation rate has to increase drastically if we want to meet set renewable energy targets, according to the latest PV Status report.
The current policies in place to limit global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are insufficient to keep the temperature increase below 2°C.
The decarbonisation of the energy system is the single most important component to achieve that target.
In order to reach the climate targets, the power sector has to be fully decarbonised – not by 2060, but well before 2050 – and PV is one of the key technologies for implementing this shift.
"PV is a key technology option for decarbonising the power sector. It can be deployed in a modular way almost anywhere, solar resources in the world are abundant and they cannot be monopolised by one country", said JRC Director Piotr Szymanski.
PV installation rate not on track to meet climate targets
The JRC’s PV status report points at the gap between the global and European climate targets and the deployment rate of solar power.
"Although the new installed capacity increased worldwide by 7% and solar power attracted the largest share of new investments in renewable energies for the 9th year in a row, a much more rapid increase in the installation rate is needed to decarbonise the power sector by 2050", said the report author Arnulf Jäger-Waldau.
With an installed capacity of 117 GW at the end of 2018, the EU further lost ground in the worldwide market.
The EU’s share of the global installed capacity was about 23%. This is a steep decline from the 66 % recorded at the end of 2012.
With the current capacity, the EU can provide just under 5% of its electricity demand.
According to a recent 100% RES scenario of the Energy Watch Group, the EU needs to increase its PV capacity from 117 GW to over 630 GW by 2025 and 1.94 TW by 2050 in order to cover 100% of its electricity needs by renewable energy.
Developing economies invest more in renewables than developed countries
The PV industry has changed dramatically over the past few years.
Until 2006, solar cell production was dominated by Japan and Europe, but in 2014 a new trend emerged which saw China and Taiwan rapidly increase their production capacities.
Since then, other Asian countries such as India, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam have followed the lead.
This trend of developing economies investing more in renewable energy capacity than the developed countries continued in 2018 for the fourth year in a row.
China is now the major manufacturing country for solar cells and modules, followed by Taiwan and Malaysia.
Out of the € 122 billion invested in solar power in 2018 worldwide, 54% (€ 65 billion) were invested in developing economies.
Bringing PV manufacturing back to Europe is possible
At the moment, the production capacity of solar cells and solar modules in the EU is just 1 GW and 3GW, respectively.
From a security of supply viewpoint, the increase in the PV installations should be matched by a realistic regional production.
The rapid cost reduction in PV manufacturing would merit a fresh look at the potential to bring PV factories back to Europe.
The investment costs required by PV manufacturing have decreased by about 90% over the past 10 years.
The European manufacturing chain could be competitive with factories with an annual production volume from 5 to 10 GW.
"There are huge opportunities for PV in the future, but such developments will not happen on their own. It will require a sustained effort and support of all stakeholders to implement the change to a sustainable energy supply, with PV delivering a major part", Arnulf Jäger-Waldau concluded.
Further reading: PV Status Report 2019
JRC report: PV Status Report 2019
- Publication date
- 31 January 2020