- EC has proposed a plan called REPowerEU to act on measures with an aim to become independent of Russian gas supply before 2030
- Accelerating roll-out of solar, wind and heat pumps is part of the plan which will also help bring down rising energy prices
- It has proposed to accelerate the roll out of rooftop PV systems by up to 15 TWh in 2022, to be able to save an additional 2.5 bcm of gas
- Support for solar is disappointing as EC’s new 2030 target is marginally higher than before and still significantly below deployment level analysts anticipate in business as usual scenario by 2030
- It wants renewables permitting processes to be eased to ensure faster launch of such projects in member states
- SPE believes solar ambition can be raised to TW level by 2030 with measures as faster permitting, facilitating rooftop PV and utility scale development, and accelerating deployment of local manufacturing capacity
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is acting as a trigger for the European Union (EU) to figure out ways to become independent of Russian gas supply before 2030, for which it has now outlined a plan that also incorporates measures to bring down rising energy prices by accelerating roll-out of solar, wind and heat pumps.
Since last 5 years, the EU has been importing gas, oil and coal to suffice 57% to 60% of its gross energy consumption. In 2021, Russia alone accounted for around 45% of the bloc’s total gas imports.
“We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas. We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us,” said European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen. “The quicker we switch to renewables and hydrogen, combined with more energy efficiency, the quicker we will be truly independent and master our energy system.”
The newly launched REPowerEU initiative, explained EC, is designed to diversify the region’s gas supplies while speeding up the production of renewable gases and replace gas in heating and power generation, all aimed at reducing EU demand for Russian gas by 2/3rd before 2022 comes to an end.
For solar energy, the EC in REPowerEU plan proposes to accelerate the roll out of rooftop PV systems by up to 15 TWh in 2022 which will enable EU to save an additional 2.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas. Details of the solar energy plan will be released in June 2022, when the EC will come out with its solar strategy.
Additionally, it wants member states to fast-track renewables permitting by easing regulatory bottlenecks and minimizing the time to bring online renewable energy projects and grid infrastructure improvements. The commission will launch a recommendation to achieve the same in May 2022 where it will address the ‘key barriers and good practice solutions to tackle them’.
The bloc wants to quicken the pace of decarbonization of industry through electrification, renewable hydrogen which will also enhance the region’s low-carbon manufacturing capabilities.
This year, the bloc will also be able to finalize financing mechanisms to promote power purchase agreements (PPA) in the region in association with the European Investment Bank (EIB). EC said a public consultation on both permitting and PPAs is currently ongoing and will be published before summer.
Part of the plan is to also replace demand for Russian gas with an additional 10 MT of imported renewable hydrogen and an additional 5 MT of domestic renewable hydrogen. Infrastructure, storage facilities and ports to facilitate this growth will be encouraged as well.
Solar ambition too low
European solar PV lobby association SolarPower Europe (SPE) is not impressed with the EC’s recommendations for the PV technology. It wants the commission to recognize the true power of solar and set the ambition needed to achieve the climate and security goals.
SPE CEO Walburga Hemetsberger highlighted that including the rooftop solar goal of 15 TWh before the end of 2022, the REPowerEU strategy counts 420 GW of additional solar capacity to come up in the EU by 2030. However, it is not clear if this was on top of the 165 GW of solar that’s already installed in the EU by end of 2021, which would result into a new total solar installation target in the EU of 565 GW, or if this is the original target in AC, which would result in around 479 GW DC, the EC has been targeting as part of its Fit for 55 impact assessment earlier (see graph). In any case, according to SPE’s business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, European member states will install anyway a total of 672 GW of solar by 2030, which means that demand for solar would be is at least 100 GW larger than what the Commission is now targeting at a time of a war in Europe, when it is trying to get energy independent as soon as possible. Either the EC doesn’t understand the solar market at all or it doesn’t care, an analyst said. The BAU scenario was published in December 2021, when renewables played no role in the EU’s geo-strategic considerations.
When taking into consideration the geopolitical component on top of climate change – and implementing push and pull measures, a 100 GW+ market size in 2025 is possible, according to a new Accelerated High Scenario published by SolarPower Europe. With supportive backing the solar power generation fleet could even exceed 1 TW by 2030, the association said.
To achieve the TW level for solar by 2030, SPE estimates an investment cost of around €782 billion, 74% higher than BAU scenario, which it points out, will still be insufficient to comply with the Paris 1.5º C target.
In response to the European Commission’s proposals, and in recognition of the renewed geopolitical urgency of the renewables transition, SolarPower Europe has published a pathway to the solar TW level in Europe. The document presents market intelligence outlining the realistic scope of solar expansion, and sets out four policy asks to get there:
- Multiply rooftop PV development through mandatory solar on new buildings, bans on fossil-fuel boilers, and significant investment.
- Facilitate utility-scale development by freezing grid connection fees, and mandating member states to identify suitable solar PV sites, aiming to fast-track developments.
- Pave the way for smart solar and hybrid projects using dedicated CEF-E and RRF funding, and a new EU Commission taskforce for hybrid projects access to flexibility markets.
- Accelerate the deployment of EU solar PV manufacturing capacity with€ 1bn de-risking funding from InvestEU & Innovation Funds.
SPE’s Senior Policy Advisor Naomi Chevillard added, “We welcome the common approach proposed by the European Commission and the clear time limit of 30th June 2022, which should ensure that the measures are limited in time, non-retroactive, and restricted to the extra profits. We call on the EU to ensure an increased scrutiny of the measures based on this guidance.”
SPE’s vision and recommendations to a full pathway to 1 TW of solar with more detailed policy asks can be viewed on the SPE website.