2022 was a stellar year for the European solar industry. According to a report from the trade group SolarPower Europe, the EU added 41.4 gigawatts of new solar capacity to the grid over the course of the year - a 47 percent increase over 2021 and enough to power 12.4 million European homes.
“Only history will tell,” the report says, “but it is likely that Europe will remember 2022 as the year the solar age truly began.”
The report attributes such rapid growth to the improvement in supply chain issues, record-high energy prices and the sudden desire for the EU to wean itself off natural gas from Russia. Looking ahead, the EU has fast-tracked efforts to add more than 320 gigawatts of solar power to the European grid by 2025 and almost 600 gigawatts by 2030. Today, the EU’s total solar fleet has a capacity of about 209 gigawatts.
This compares to around 135 gigawatts in the USA at the end of 2022. However, the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has created significant upside to the long-term solar forecasts, with 21 percent average annual growth forecasted for 2023 - 2027, says the US Solar Energy Industry Association.
For the first time, the report says, all of Europe’s top 10 solar markets were gigawatt-scale, meaning they added at least 1 gigawatt of new solar capacity over the course of the year.
The report predicts that deployment will exceed 50 gigawatts in 2023 and climb as high as 120 gigawatts annually within the next four years. If SolarPower Europe’s projections prove true, EU member states will achieve their 2030 solar targets 5 years earlier than originally scheduled.
“Each and every stakeholder in energy politics needs to be aware that imminently, solar will be at the center of the European Union’s energy system,” the authors wrote in a foreword. To maximize the sector’s full potential, the authors call on policymakers to dramatically expand the solar industry workforce, upgrade the grid for more solar connections, and streamline solar permitting procedures. Across the pond, the White House has already implemented fast-track permitting for clean-energy infrastructure.