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Solar PV playing a key role in Europe’s decarbonization

For the past 10 years, the European photovoltaic industry had grown by an average of over 40 percent yearly, while production costs have dropped by around 60 percent, according to the European Commission’s Joint Research Center in a report.

Meanwhile, last year, Europe collectively comprised two thirds, or more than 63 percent, of global solar PV installations, earning the reputation as the “world leader in solar deployment” for the first time. Germany alone accounts for 27 percent of the PV share worldwide.

The Joint Research Center said the rapid deployment of solar facilities across different countries in the region is one of the E.U.’s main campaigns to become renewable energy dependent by 2020.

“PV will play an important part of Europe’s electricity mix, covering at least 10 percent and as much as 25 percent by 2030,” according to a recently published report by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association.

The industry group observed the electricity system’s behavior across the E.U. both under normal and extreme conditions and assessed how solar PV’s will fit the grid.

Based on the findings, large-scale PV integration in the European grid provides immense potential, having a high level of security of supply even under the most extreme weather and load conditions. “With the right measures in place, system reliability can be ensured,” the industry association said.


Meanwhile, in addressing challenges brought by the increased demand for renewables integration, the report says “solutions do exist” for relative variability, limited dispatchability and flexibility requirements of renewables especially with regard to PV.

In terms of variability, the generation capacity of a PV facility has the tendency to fluctuate under particular weather conditions. However, this rise and fall has an insignificant impact on the overall electricity system. As such, PV should be seen as a variable source of electricity, instead of an intermittent one, said the industry association.

When it comes to PV’s ability to transmit power, their peak production usually occurs around midday, the time when power demand reaches one of its highest peaks per day. Significantly, it is a strong point of PV technology since it could match the consumption needed at that specific time.

Moreover, “PV’s unique ability to produce electricity close to where it is consumed alleviates the need for additional massive investment in new transmission lines,” noted the study.

“In many ways, PV is already providing grid-integration solutions,” said European Photovoltaic Industry Association’s president, Dr. Winfried Hoffmann.

“By making smart choices now to improve energy infrastructure, European policymakers can ensure that the E.U.’s ambitious energy and decarbonization goals are met,” Mr. Hoffmann added.

Moving on

For 2020, the E.U. aims to cut its greenhouse emissions to 20 percent below 1990 threshold levels. Moreover, for 2050, the region seeks to bring down its emissions by about 80 to 95 percent compared with 1990 levels.

The region is currently halfway toward the 2020 goal, according to the European Commission. Meanwhile, for the past two decades, the region’s emissions have been reduced by about 16 percent, while the economy has grown by nearly 40 percent.

Currently, the E.U. has an overall installed capacity of 52 gigawatts. To boost this solar power output, the government has set a goal of plugging in a total of 84 GW by 2020 under the National Renewable Energy Plans for 2020.

In the context of Europe’s decarbonization targets, solar power is one of the more variable and viable sources, the PV association added.

The study stressed that as policymakers consider their options for investing in new and more efficient grid infrastructure, they should also look at the benefits that PV is already producing and, more importantly, the greater advantages that it is capable of producing in the next coming years.

“In that way, PV can deliver on its promise as a major contributor to meeting Europe’s energy, environmental and economic goals for the coming decades,” the report concluded. (Catherine Dominguez)

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