The European Union installed around 8.0 GW of solar power systems in 2018; that is a 36% year-on-year increase over the 5.9 GW connected to the grid in EU-28 in 2017, according to an estimate from SolarPower Europe, the association for the solar power sector in Europe, on February 20. Solar installations in Europe as a whole grew by around 20% to 11.0 GW in 2018, up from 9.2 GW the year before.
“It is good to see Europe fully embracing solar again,” SolarPower Europe CEO Walburga Hemetsberger said. “With solar being the most popular energy source among EU citizens, the most versatile and often also the lowest cost power generation source, and with cost reductions continuing, we are only at the beginning of a long upward trend for solar in Europe,” she added.
SolarPower Europe Policy Director Aurélie Beauvais noted that there is very strong demand for solar in Europe in the next two years. “One of the main reasons is the upcoming EU 2020 targets, where many member states will opt for low-cost solar to meet their obligations,” she said. “The EU has done its homework – by removing the trade measures on solar panels and ensuring a highly positive framework for solar through the Clean Energy Package legislation, the stage is set for significant solar growth. Now it is important that EU member states enforce the right national climate and energy plans to sustain this solar boom,” Beauvais added.
According to the SolarPower Europe report, Europe’s largest solar market in 2018 was Germany with 2.96 GW of new grid-connected capacity, up 68% from the 1.76 GW installed in 2017. It was followed by Turkey, the reigning European solar market from the previous year, which installed 1.64 GW in 2018, down 37% from the year before, after a decline in demand due to the financial downturn in the country. A rising solar star, the Netherlands, ranked as the third largest solar market in 2018. The country added around 1.4 GW compared to 0.77 GW in 2017 and is now entering the ‘solar gigawatt-club’ for the first time.
SolarPower Europe noted that while the EU-28’s 36% solar market growth in 2018 is very impressive, the number could have been even higher. SolarPower Europe Executive Advisor Michael Schmela explained that a sudden demand pull from China at the end of last year led to a supply shortage for high-quality panels in Europe, forcing several developers to delay the completion of projects into 2019. However, he added, “The good news is that 2019 will be an even better year for solar in Europe.”