Solar photovoltaics set to provide 12% of Europe's electricity by 2020

Solar photovoltaics set to provide 12% of Europe's electricity by 2020

The European PV industry has redefined its targets following technological developments and rising energy prices. The sector aims to supply 12% of Europe's electricity by 2020.

During the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) September 2008 conference in Valencia, Spain, an exclusive meeting of the sector's leading members set out to redefine the industry's objectives. They outlined the aims of the photovoltaic (PV) industry in the wake of recent advances in technology and ever-rising energy costs. While over 4 000 scientists and 750 companies gathered to showcase cutting-edge innovations in solar PV energy, the industry chiefs unanimously agreed the sector could realistically provide 12% of Europe's electricity by 2020.

The EPIA believe PV technology will develop faster than had previously been estimated. As a result, the industry will be able to compete with retail electricity prices in major energy markets far earlier than expected. The industry is committed to provide the necessary increases in investment to stimulate cost reductions. In addition, the EPIA will consult with other renewable sectors to coordinate a global renewables scenario. To facilitate this, appropriate political support was requested at European level until competitiveness was actually achieved – see BOX.

The ultimate goal of the EPIA is to see PV energy reached ‘grid parity’ in competition terms with retail electricity prices – currently prices in Southern Europe with high levels of sunshine are not significantly higher, but in northern Europe prices are still up to twice that of conventional electricity. It is estimated that the rapid development of the sector could result in parity being reached in several European markets by 2010. Specifically, Mediterranean nations that have high solar radiation and higher electricity prices, such as Italy and Spain, could achieve grid parity by 2010 and 2012 respectively.

Further north, PV technology is expected to reach grid parity in Germany by 2015, with the rest of the EU following suite by 2020. Such developments, when combined with a wider renewable co-operation initiative, could result in the EU's target of 20% from renewables by 2020 being exceeded.

More information :

European Photovoltaic Industry Association: http://www.epia.org


Necessary political framework

The EPIA has outlined the measures it feels necessary to promote increased investment and accelerated cost reductions. In particular, it highlights feed-in tariffs during the bridging period before parity is reached, and has also called for a simplified administrative environment. In addition, it feels the sector should be granted priority access to the grid. Finally, the industry emphasises the importance of the implementation of the EU Strategic Energy Technology plan (SET plan), believing it will benefit research, development, and deployment efforts at the European level. EPIA President Ernesto Macías calls for common efforts on the part of the photovoltaic sector “to make this technology a real solution to global energy challenge”. Inclusion of renewable energies in the European Commission lead market initiative (LMI) will also help to lift obstacles hindering innovation in low carbon technologies and to remove planning and certification barriers.

More information:

EU Strategic Energy Technology plan (SET plan): http://ec.europa.eu/energy/res/setplan/communication_2007_en.htm

EU lead market initiative (EU) – renewable enegies: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/leadmarket/renewable_energies.htm


Long lifetimes

PV systems have a lifetime of up to 30 years. The raw material used in their production is silicon and is available abundantly worldwide although the process to produce pure silicon for crystalline solar cells is complex – current shortages in this area are being overcome as new factories come on line. Moreover, all the components in PV modules can be recycled: the valuable solar cells themselves can be recycled into new wafers as the basis for new cells while the aluminium frames, glass covers and cables can also be recycled. The energy required to produce crystalline PV modules can be recuperate in the first two years of operation, while for thin-flm cells this can be recuperate within one year. And new technology is continually being introduced to reduce the energy required for production.

More information:

Solar Generation 4 (EPIA/Greenpeace):