EU solar power hits new record peak this summer

New analysis by energy think tank Ember reveals that, for the first time, solar panels generated a tenth of EU-27 electricity during their peak months of June and July this year. 

New records were set in eight EU countries, including Spain and Germany. However, solar panels still generated less electricity than Europe’s coal power plants, even during the height of their summer peak. The analysis shows that annual growth in solar output needs to double to meet the EU’s 2030 emissions targets.


Europe’s solar growth

The analysis shows that Europe’s summer peaks in solar power generation that happen in June and July are getting bigger every year. Solar panels generated a record 10% of EU electricity (39 TWh) in June-July 2021, up from 28 TWh in the same period in 2018. Growth is accelerating: the EU saw solar generation increase by 5.1 TWh between June-July 2020 and 2021, a larger year-on-year change than in 2020 (+3.1 TWh) or 2019 (+2.6 TWh). 

Eight EU countries set a new solar record share during the summer peak this year: Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

Seven EU countries generated over a tenth of their electricity from solar panels in June-July 2021, with the Netherlands (17%), Germany (17%), Spain (16%), Greece (13%) and Italy (13%) leading the way. 

Hungary has quadrupled its solar share since June-July 2018, while the Netherlands and Spain have doubled. Estonia and Poland have gone from near-zero solar in 2018 to 10% and 5% respectively in June-July 2021.

For the first time, solar overtook coal power in Hungary in summer 2021, a milestone that had already been reached the previous year in Greece and Portugal, and several years ago in the Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, Austria and Belgium. Hungary saw solar power increase from 3% of electricity in June-July 2018 to 12% this summer. In comparison, Hungary’s coal power fell from 17% of its electricity in June-July 2018 to just 10% this summer. 


Solar revolution poised to take off

Despite recent gains, the EU’s electricity generation from solar panels still remains less than coal power plants, which generated 14% of EU electricity in June-July 2021 (58 TWh). 

The EU-27 has added 14 TWh of solar generation every year on average in the last two years. However, according to the European Commission, annual growth in the next decade must double to 30 TWh in order to meet the EU’s new 2030 climate targets. 

The solar market is poised to support the growth required. It is now half the price to generate electricity from new solar panels than existing fossil plants across major markets including Germany, the UK, Italy, France and Spain. The global average Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOEs) for utility-scale solar photovoltaic has collapsed from $381/MWh USD in 2010 to $57/MWh in 2020.

Europe has had a record-breaking summer for solar power, but it is yet to harness its full potential. The cost of solar power has tumbled in the last decade and we are seeing the first signs of Europe’s solar revolution in countries like Spain, the Netherlands, Hungary and even coal-heavy Poland. However, there is a long way to go before solar provides more power than fossil fuels, even in the height of Europe’s summer sun. Weather extremes across Europe this summer have given governments an urgent wake-up call and now they must turn climate targets into climate action by stepping up solar deployment.” 


Charles Moore

Europe lead, Ember


Image: solar village in Germany. Credit: ImageBroker Alamy

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