Impact of COVID-19 on European solar sector and steps to a green recovery

In light of the COVID-19 crisis that has put most of Europe in lockdown, SolarPower Europe held a webinar on 9 April that addressed the impact of the virus on the European solar sector, with panellists representing solar manufacturing companies and associations from some of Europe’s most heavily affected regions.  

Alessio Cipullo, European Affairs and Studies at Elettricità Futura, said: “The COVID-19 emergency is a global challenge for the entire power sector. Our members at Elettricità Futura are showing resilience in facing the situation, and they are working to maximise solar production. The energy transition process, National Energy and Climate Plans, and European Green Deal are all excellent tools to promote the post-emergency economic recovery. As such, we expect both National and European Institutions to leverage such tools and remove existing barriers, such as simplifying key permitting procedures.” 

Discussing the measures that can help the sector maintain its growth trajectory, José Donoso, General Director at Unión Española Fotovoltaica (UNEF), commented: “Governments must understand that, after COVID-19, the climate emergency will continue, and that at the same time, solar energy is a way to help the economy recover after the present crisis. The solar PV sector is an opportunity to create clean, sustainable economic growth, and long-term employment. But we need auctions as soon as possible, a speeding up of the permitting process, access to finance with good terms, and temporary fiscal advantages for self-consumption.”

Susannah Wood, Marketing Director at Solarcentury, added: “When we exit this pandemic, we are calling for governments and policymakers to hold the course and stick to climate change pledges, and for solar deployment to be accelerated in order to rapidly cut carbon and boost jobs. Governments can help by streamlining the permitting process and by ensuring that energy markets are designed with renewables and storage at the forefront of their thinking. We’ve proved we can move mountains in the last few months. Let’s apply that ingenuity and spirit to fixing the climate.”

The insistence that the solar sector form a key part of any post-COVID-19 stimulus package, was echoed by a joint letter signed by the environment ministers from Austria, Denmark, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden, who called for the European Green Deal policy framework to be employed as the guiding mechanism for economic recovery. The letter further noted the need to meet climate targets despite the postponement of COP26, which was due to be held in Glasgow in November of this year.

Aristotelis Chantavas, Head of Europe at Enel Green Power and President of SolarPower Europe, commented: “The COVID-19 crisis underscores the need to offer sustainable solutions and to accelerate the energy transition towards a decarbonised society, which may require certain measures for the solar sector: such as addressing regulatory and infrastructure barriers hampering deployment, and improving grid support and sectoral integration. It is essential that the commitment to the European Green Deal is maintained in order to reach climate neutrality before 2050.”

Michael Schmela, Executive Advisor and Head of Market Intelligence at SolarPower Europe, added: “The impact of COVID-19 will be felt across all European industries. In the solar sector, we will see a short-term delay in projects due to the supply of materials, as well as a demand slowdown due to the European lockdown. However, in the medium- to long-term, the sector looks to undergo a quick recovery, especially if national energy and climate ambitions are maintained. For now, we must ensure that any European stimulus package favours clean energy technologies, making it a green recovery with solar and renewables as the backbone, which can further bring local clean jobs and vast economic and environmental benefits.”

SolarPower Europe will hold more webinars in its current Shine On series, addressing different facets of the solar sector. For more information or to register for any session click here.

Photo © Shutterstock

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