An unprecedented yet successful year: looking back on SolarPower Europe’s policy achievements in 2020

Despite the difficulty of COVID-19, SolarPower Europe continued its advocacy efforts. Our Deputy CEOAurélie Beauvais, reflects on the achievements of each workstream. 

In Europe and around the world, the year 2020 was unlike any other year. Despite the dramatic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is more hope than ever that the European Union can recover quickly from this crisis, and build back better, placing clean energy technologies at the core of its economic renaissance. The solar sector has demonstrated that it can be a key ally to turn this ambition into reality. 

In 2020, we have witnessed the incredible resilience of solar. Solar installations grew by 11%, bringing new capacity additions to a level that marks the second-best ever in EU solar history. SolarPower Europe worked relentlessly to shape the best possible policy and business environment, which will enable our sector to grow even further, and contribute to a green recovery for the EU. Only one month into 2021, it is a good time to look back on our achievements. 

In 2020, SolarPower Europe made a prominent entry into a new and promising area: Renewable Hydrogen.  

SolarPower Europe has been leading this topic as of May 2020, with the successful “Choose Renewable Hydrogen Campaign”, which secured the prioritisation of renewable-based solutions within the European Hydrogen Strategy. The success of this campaign led to the creation of the “Renewable Hydrogen Coalition” in November 2020, in collaboration with Wind Europe and Breakthrough Energy. SolarPower Europe is also proud to coordinate the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance’s “Low-carbon and renewable hydrogen production Roundtable”. On 18 February 2021, we will kick-off our Renewable Hydrogen Workstream that will channel the contributions from our members to these exciting activities. 

On top of this, we created three new workstreams covering priority areas for our membership: Grids, AgriSolar, and Financing.  

The AgriSolar Workstream was launched in April 2020, to support the clean energy transition in rural communities, and has since achieved many great successes. In June 2020, investing in solar was recognised as a priority within the European Commission Farm to Fork Strategy. During the SolarPower Summit, the workstream launched a briefing paper: Agri-PV: how solar enables the clean energy transition in rural areas.  

In June 2020, SolarPower Europe also launched the new Grids Workstream, tasked with the critical mission of removing current barriers to grid access and connection, which hampers the deployment of solar in Europe. The workstream hosted a successful launch webinar, “Decentralised, Smarter, Greener: the 2030 European grid” and is working full speed to deliver its first report on Grid Integration. 

Finally, our Finance Workstream spent 2020 providing key recommendations to leverage private and public finance towards achieving our energy and climate goals. This included advising the European Investment Bank (EIB) Climate Roadmap 2021-2025EU Sustainable Finance Strategy, EU Taxonomy, EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive, and EU Renewable Energy Financing Mechanism.  

At the same time, our existing workstreams kept enriching their activities to keep pace with a fast-changing environment and break new ground: 

In 2020, the Solar Buildings Workstream expanded its scope beyond BIPV to include traditional rooftop PV and building decarbonisation technologies. This workstream bore the following fruits: in the Renovation Wave Strategy, the European Commission committed to removing barriers to the development of BIPV in the EU, to develop minimum requirements for the use of renewable energy in buildings, and to revise the State Aid framework for renewable self-consumption. Further, the European Parliament expressed its support for a European solar rooftop programme in the ‘Own Initiative Report’ on “Maximising the energy efficiency potential of the EU building stock.”  

The Storage Workstream released the first edition of its new European Market Outlook for Residential Battery Storage, the first report of its kind, analysing the development of residential battery energy storage systems (BESS) in Europe providing an overview of the current status of the market and a five-year forecast of its mid-term evolution. The workstream also published Recommendations on Recovery and Resilience Plans to foster the growth of battery storage through different support policies. It also published a white paper on policies to support the integration of battery energy storage systems

Our Digitalisation Workstream supported the development of the EU Energy System Integration Strategy, contributing to the definition of data access, management, and interoperability standards, which is necessary to create a digital ecosystem that allows smart devices across sectors to interact and enables further innovation. The workstream also provided specific guidance on  cybersecurity measures for distributed PV systems and solar parks in the Directive on security of network and information systems (NIS Directive).  

The Sustainability Workstream positioned SolarPower Europe as the leading stakeholder on the Sustainable Product Policies initiative by the EU Commission, planning to introduce  

Ecodesign and Energy Label policy tools to solar modules, inverters, and systems. Bringing together a number of partner associations, the Workstream established a Joint Mission Group to liaise with EU policymakers on the design of the policy tools. Meetings were held with high-level EU institution representatives on the topics of circular economy, EU-ETS reform, and Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism.     

Our Emerging Markets Workstream had very productive yea with new reports on solar investment opportunities in Latin America (regional), India, and Tunisia. The workstream also actively partnered with international cooperation programs around the world to disseminate industry best practices, support capacity building measures and access to financing, and provide policy and technical advice to enhance conditions for solar in Jordan, India, and Tunisia, working with key international players such as RenewAfrica and the Global Solar Council. 

The Lifecycle Quality Workstream published the industry-first best practice guidelines on Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC). Building on a successful first guide, the workstream also published version 2.0 of the Asset Management Best Practice Guidelines, incorporating even more industry experience. The workstream further created the Solar Best Practices Mark, a self-certification, voluntary quality label. Along with 20 partners, the workstream is also part of TRUST-PV, a 4-year research project with over €12 million in grant value from the EU’s Horizon 2020, aimed at improving the performance and reliability of solar power plants. 

Last but not least, our Industrial Strategy Workstream has taken a huge leap forward, with the launch of the Solar Manufacturing Accelerator, which selected and presented 10 leading industrial projects to the European Commission and the European Investment Bank in July 2020. The success of this meeting has enabled our association to reposition solar PV manufacturing on top of the European Agenda, with the upcoming launch of a European Solar Initiative together with EIT InnoEnergy, the architects of the well-known European Battery Alliance. 

In 2021, we will continue these activities and more, together with you, our members! These successes are also your successes, so here’s to making 2021 another “solar year”! 

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