By: James Watson, CEO
The year 2017 was a big year for solar globally, with the industry demonstrating a renewed growth and hitting major milestones such as becoming the cheapest form of electricity in the world, proving to the world that solar is not merely an ‘alternative’ energy source but a first choice. With a year-on-year growth of 50% and even greater growth predicted this year – solar is leading the way to a clean energy future for all.
This year kicked off with a landmark win for the solar industry as Member States rejected the European Commission’s proposal to extend trade measures on solar panels and cells imported from China, Taiwan and Malaysia. This opened up the market for more affordable solar to fulfill European citizens’ appetite for this clean energy source. In just two and a half years, the average prices in German auctions for solar power have decreased by nearly 50% to only 4.91 euro cents per kWh – and in Spain solar just won an impressive 4 GW generation capacity in the national clean energy tender. This surge in solar will not only provide cheap, clean energy for Europeans, but it will also help create over 94,000 new jobs in Europe by 2021, according to a study we did this year in collaboration with EY.
Solar’s potential did not go unnoticed by policymakers, as discussions on the Clean Energy Package saw an important shift in interest to ramp up renewable ambitions. When the Winter Package first was proposed, the EU was insistent that only a 27% RES target was feasible – but thanks to SolarPower Europe leading the charge to increase ambitions to 35%, the European Parliament voted to support a more ambitious target and the President of the Energy Union, Maros Sefcovic, himself stated that increasing the RES target will be more economically valuable for the EU both in the short-term and long-term. Other major policy wins such as a more robust governance for solar installations, as well as a right to self-consume, increasing digitalisation and the 550g/kwH carbon criteria being placed into capacity mechanisms have put solar on a promising trajectory. We also saw the launch of the Clean Energy Industrial Strategy following pressure from SolarPower Europe for an improvement in the supply side policies of the European Union for solar.
The success of our events this year has further cemented the interest, innovation, and motivation to grow the European solar industry. In February, we accepted the European Association Award for Best Networking Event for our 100GW Party – and the events in 2017 continued on this award-winning path. From our flagship event, the SolarPower Summit, where industry leaders and policymakers discussed the next steps to create another solar boom in Europe, to the Midsummer Celebration, where high-level talks on solar and digitalisation took place, through to the RE-Source event, which for the first time gathered corporate renewable buyers and sellers together to discuss PPAs and saw the launch of the first-of-its-kind RE-Source Platform in Europe, to industry-leading events such as Digital Solar & Storage and O&M and Asset Management – it is clear that solar is truly a cross-cutting technology that will form the core of the electricity system of Europe in the future.
While there is still much to be done in 2018 to ensure the growth of the European solar industry, we are confident that with the support of our members and partners that next year will be an even brighter year for solar. Merry Christmas, happy holidays and season’s greetings to you all!
(Photo Credit: Paul Langrock Agentur Zenit)