New analysis by energy think tank EMBER reveals that, for the first time, solar panels generated a tenth of EU-27 electricity during their peak months of June and July this year.
New records were set in eight EU countries including Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland. However, solar panels still generated less electricity than Europe’s coal power plants, even during the height of their summer peak. The analysis shows that annual growth in solar output needs to double to meet the EU’s 2030 emissions targets.
Europe’s solar boom continues, CEE performs well
The analysis shows that Europe’s summer peaks in solar power generation that happen in June and July are getting bigger every year. Solar panels generated a record 10 per cent of EU electricity (39 TWh) in June-July 2021, up from 28 TWh in the same period in 2018.
Eight EU countries set a new solar record share during the summer peak this year which includes Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
Hungary is definitely a frontrunner from the CEE region. The country has quadrupled its solar share since June-July 2018 and solar overtook coal power in Hungary for the first time this summer. Hungary saw solar power increase from 3 per cent of electricity in June-July 2018 to 12 per cent this summer. In comparison, the country’s coal power fell from 17 per cent of its electricity in June-July 2018 to just 10 per cent this summer.
Solar revolution poised to take off
Despite recent gains, the EU’s electricity generation from solar panels still remains less than coal power plants, which generated 14 per cent of EU 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.
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 US dollars per MWh in 2010 to 57 US dollars per MWh in 2020.
“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,” said Charles Moore Europe lead at Ember.
“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,” underlined Mr Moore adding that 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.