European solar stakeholders welcome REPowerEU strategy but call for immediate action

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A key focus area of the new strategy was on skills shortages in the EU, especially when it came to downstream installers. Image: Iberdrola.

The EU Solar Energy Strategy, published alongside the REPowerEU strategy yesterday, has targeted 400GWdc of solar PV by 2025 and almost 740GWdc by 2030, a significant jump on the bloc’s previous targets as it looks to cut its reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

In order to hit these numbers, it has proposed four initiatives to help solar deployment and manufacturing on the continent, which includes a rooftop PV programme, widescale permitting reform, addressing the bloc’s skills shortage and greater support for PV manufacturing. More details on each initiative can be found here.

PV Tech has been gaging the reaction from EU solar stakeholders. While many applaud and welcome the proposals, there is also a sense that the EU could have been more ambitious in other areas.

The target is higher that SolarPower Europe’s (SPE) ‘business-as-usual projections’ – 672 GWdc by 2030 – but falls short of its most ambitious scenario of 1TW of solar capacity by 2030, which is supported by a five EU member states. “The new EU Solar Strategy 740GWdc target brings us that much closer to the Terawatt age of European solar,” said Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SPE.

“Within the EU Solar Strategy, the European Commission sets out flagship initiatives that parallel SolarPower Europe proposals in our ‘8 Actions to Solar Power EU Energy Independence’”, SPE said. PV Tech spoke with SPE at last week’s Intersolar event, with the trade body telling this publication it expected extra measures on rooftop PV, permitting, skills shortages and manufacturing to be announced in the new strategy, all of which have been.

“Today the European Commission recognises the immense potential of rooftop solar – as well as the need for a solar workforce to roll out both rooftop and utility solar across Europe,” said Dries Acke, policy director at SPE, adding that the trade body expects up to 1.1 million solar jobs in Europe by 2030.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), congratulated the European Commission (EC) on its strategy, saying it would “cut reliance on Russian fossil fuels & speed up the clean energy transition”. He tweeted the plan was also aligned with the IEA’s recent 10-Point Plans and IEA-EC joint work on energy savings.

Not everyone was so positive, however. Environmental thinktank E3G said some aspects of the proposals need improvement. It said that while the new strategy will contribute to higher ambition in the ‘Fit for 55’ package negotiations, “support for new gas infrastructure will make the transition costlier than needed.”

“On the one hand, REPowerEU accelerates the European Green Deal, but on the other hand, it fails to disrupt our fossil gas habits. This inconsistency sets the EU up for a messier and costlier transition than necessary,” said Raphael Hanoteaux, senior policy advisor on gas politics at E3G.  

Meanwhile, developers have also been having their say. Ignacio Galán, CEO and chairman of Iberdrola said the strategy was “a set of progressive proposals that will help Europe to accelerate this path by boosting investments in renewables, networks, storage and green hydrogen”.

“This will also increase self-sufficiency, improve our competitiveness and create industrial development and jobs all over Europe,” he said, adding that “the promise to speed-up permitting procedures for renewables and grids is both welcome and necessary.”

Energy innovation group EIT InnoEnergy’s CEO Diego Pavia said the bloc’s “dependence on imported technologies on solar threatens our ability to reap the benefits – in terms of growth and job creation – of the additional 45GW of solar PV capacity to be installed each year until 2030.”

“We can’t be swapping dependency on Russian gas with imported solar. It’s only right that our build out ambition is served by a full European value chain, from polysilicon to modules, with the potential to capture a market worth €40 billion (US$42.1 billion) per year and create 400,000 new jobs in Europe,” Pavia said.

He said that without greater collaboration “between market players to accelerate our solar manufacturing roll out”, Europe risked failing to hit its targets.

“European Solar Industry Alliance [REPowerEU’s manufacturing initiative], building up on the dynamic of the European Solar Initiative, is a key way to support this direction of travel.”

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