EU Science Hub

EU keeps global leadership in solar energy capacity, but downsizes on new installations

An engineering installing a PV solar panel At the end of 2016, worldwide solar PV power capacity is expected to exceed 310 GW, producing roughly 1.5 % of the global electricity demand.
©Fotolia, Morane
Dec 14 2016

The EU has added 6.9 GW of new net solar power capacity in 2015, reaching a cumulative installed capacity of 95.4 GW, sufficient to meet nearly 4% of the final electricity demand in the Union. Although it is still a global leader in photovoltaic (PV) installations with 40.6% of the total of 235 GW, EU’s share is down from 66% in 2012 and is declining, both in relation to a growing market worldwide and in actual installations. This is due to changing support schemes in EU Members States and reduced investments, according to JRC’s PV status report 2016.

Worldwide, roughly two thirds of the new capacity in 2015 – more than 34GW out of the total of 53.7GW – were installed in Asia, with China toping the ranking (16 to 18 GW). Japan followed with 11GW, while the US connected 7.3 GW to the grid and the 6.9 GW.

The report, published annually by the JRC, combines up-to-date international information on the PV sector from public and commercial studies cross-checked with own research. The photovoltaic sector is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) exceeding 40% over the last 15 years. Photovoltaics is an important asset in reaching the EU’s climate and energy goals of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and achieving at least 27% share of renewables in EU’s energy mix in 2030.

Since 2005, solar PV electricity generation capacity in the EU has increased from 1.9GW to 95.4 GW at the end of 2015. The target of 83.7 GW of PV capacity by 2020, set by the National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs), was surpassed already in 2014, when it reached 88.4 GW.

Germany remains the EU's leader in cumulative capacity in 2015 with nearly 40 GW, followed by Italy (nearly 18.9 GW), France (nearly 6.6 GW), the UK (8.9 GW) and Spain (5.4 GW). The UK has stepped up its efforts in PV instalments since 2014 and in 2015 tops the list of newly installed capacity with 3.5 GW connected to the grid, trailed by Germany (1.4 GW), France (850 MW) and Italy (298 MW).

According to market forecasts, the installed global PV power capacity of 235 GW at the end of 2015 could double by 2018. At the end of 2016, worldwide solar PV power is expected to exceed 310 GW, producing roughly 1.5 % of the global electricity demand.