Speech: EU Energy Commissioner at the Solar Power Summit

EU Energy Commissioner Speech

5 March 2024

EU Energy Commissioner, Kadri Simson, kicked off Day 2 of the SolarPower Summit 2024 with a keynote speech.



Good morning, everybody,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As always, I’m delighted to be here at the Solar Power Summit. This is a third year for me 
I’ve attended this Summit for the third year running. As I look to when I was here in 2022 and 2023, I’m struck by how much has changed.

Two years ago, the Russian invasion of Ukraine had just happened, and Europe was facing a colossal challenge to wean itself off Russian gas. Under the REPower Plan, we took steps to mitigate the energy crisis and establish our strategic autonomy in energy resources.

Two years on, we still face the sad reality of an ongoing war, and we can only hope for victory and peace for Ukraine as soon as possible. But the EU is now on the other side of the energy crisis. We have accelerated the transition like no one had predicted – and this is especially thanks to solar PV.

Now we have other challenges. It’s a difficult environment for EU solar PV manufacturers. I’ll come to that, and the EU response, in a moment. But a few words first on what deployment of solar looks like in the EU and what it means for our energy system and our economy.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Solar PV has risen as the bright star of our energy transition. Installations around the world and in the EU are only going one way. And that is up. Last year, the EU installed 56 GW of solar PV. This is a record and twice as much as just two years earlier. It is the fastest growing source of electricity, responsible for 8% of electricity generated last year in the EU. 

We’ve seen major growth in solar rooftops – a sign that Europe’s citizens and businesses have gone down the solar path to cut energy bills. Solar is clean and more affordable, it’s also more secure. Thanks to installations over the past two years, we collectively have saved 15 billion cubic meters of Russian gas imports. This is impressive. And it is the fruit of all of our efforts.
It comes on the back of the Solar Energy Strategy and the REPower Plan adopted two years ago.

And over the past year, we have delivered on that, finalising several initiatives to improve the regulatory environment for solar. This concerns in particular rules on making the permitting process easier. As we go forward, we’ll be counting on Member States to implement these rules. Of course, they will have the Commission’s support.


As outlined in the Wind Action Plan which also applies to solar PV, we will do so with planning guidance, recommendations, and a digital platform. But I want to take a moment to thank Solar Power Europe and its members. You are the ones, on the ground, enabling this deployment. Thanks to your efforts, this deployment boom is a source of economic growth and job creation. 

In 2022, the sector was responsible for 650 thousand jobs – a number which is rapidly increasing towards one million. So when you consider all these elements, we have a good story to tell. And yet, to reach our ambitious 2030 target, we still need to further accelerate solar and wind deployment. 


We especially need to expand and better use our grids. We need a more digitalised, decentralised, and flexible energy system that can support the millions of rooftop solar panels and local energy communities sharing resources. And we need to electrify our economy. The Commission is committed to pursuing all these goals. And our Grids Action Plan published last November addresses these missing links of the clean energy transition. 


However, one of the biggest difficulties we  now face is the challenging environment for EU solar PV manufacturers – whether they produce cells or only modules. Cheap products flooding EU markets make it difficult for EU manufacturers to compete. This is very concerning for a number of different reasons. It’s also a matter of energy security.

We believe it is in everyone’s best interest to have diversified global supply chains. So our task now is to find a balance between keeping deployment affordable and supporting EU manufacturers. Although the EU produces just a fraction of the solar cells it installs, it is home to one of the strongest producers of polysilicon worldwide and to globally competitive manufacturers of inverters and trackers. 


In PV module manufacturing, the EU sector still has the capacity to produce one out of every eight modules installed in the EU. Over the past year, we have taken a number of steps to build on this basis and support the sector.

First, under the Net-Zero Industry Act, there is a production capacity benchmark to cover 40% of demand in 2030, including in the solar PV sector. Our aim is to increase the use of non-price criteria in renewable auctions. Member states will also have to apply criteria based on cybersecurity and data security. This will especially affect the inverter sector, given smart and data-driven inverters are becoming the norm and their interaction with the grid is now critical.

Second, we have launched a European Solar PV Industry Alliance, which set itself the target of 30 GW of production capacity along the value chain. There is a pipeline of projects waiting for a financing decision. The European Investment Bank just recently adopted a financial package to support investments by one of the sector’s key manufacturers. This decision sends a very positive signal.

And we plan to apply the eco-design and energy labelling regulations to PV modules to ensure we have a level playing field on environmental requirements. These are the strategic regulatory steps which we have taken.

On the financing side, Member States are making use of the provisions in the current State Aid framework.  In less than a year, the Commission has approved over EUR 12 billion of support to strategic equipment necessary for the net-zero transition, in nine Member States. Member States have until the end of next year to approve their plans .

As regards EU funds, the Innovation Fund has so far granted EUR 400 million over two years to support new investments in solar manufacturing projects. The ongoing call for proposals has a strong focus on manufacturing.

Finally, our Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform is also helping to steer EU funding to support sectors including European solar PV manufacturing.


Dear friends,

Rest assured that the Commission is continuously reflecting on how to further support the industry. Yesterday, during the Energy Council, I discussed with EU energy ministers how to further support solar manufacturing without compromising EU deployment.  Ahead of the Council, I had sent a letter to all ministers outlining possible measures, it was co-signed by Commissioner Breton. 

Yesterday, we agreed that we need a targeted response, one that will help EU manufacturers without affecting the rest of the market. 


With this in mind, we want to promote high quality products, with high environmental and labour standards. We want to focus on innovative technologies such as building-integrated PV or agri-PV. And we want to create favourable framework conditions for EU manufacturers in particular by implementing in a timely fashion permitting provisions in the Net-Zero Industry Act and net-zero acceleration areas.

Let me end by thanking the solar sector for being such a reliable partner over the past few years. At the start of my mandate, we knew that we would be counting on you to help us deliver the energy transition. Since then, you have also stepped up to strengthen EU energy security. And just like we count on you, you can count on us too to take the right steps.

We will ensure EU manufacturers grow steadily without affecting overall deployment. And we will continue to nurture the gigantic potential of solar to build a cleaner, greener, and more secure energy system.

Thank you for your attention.

Questions? Get in touch.

Bethany Meban
Head of Press and Policy Communications

+32 492 97 82 48

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