The future of solar energy in Europe

Photo: Courtesy of Valburge Hemetsberger

Today, the leading European solar energy association was founded in 1985 and is known as SolarPower Europe. This association brings together more than 250 companies and organizations operating within the value chain in the field of solar power plants. There are manufacturers of equipment for solar power plants, contractors and national associations. To become a member of SolarPower Europe, you must first complete an online form, and the association’s Board of Directors decides on admission and gives final approval. We spoke with Valburg Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe, about the benefits of membership in this association and the future of solar energy in Europe.

EP: SolarPower Europe intends to reach the goal that by 2030, the largest electricity production of all energy sources will be provided by the solar sector. How can policy makers, companies and society as a whole contribute to this goal?

Valburga Hemetsberger: We all have to roll up our sleeves if we want to achieve that goal! Policy makers can support this goal by adopting the best legal framework for the development of solar power plants. A good example is Vienna, whose city government has determined that every new building must have a solar power plant, which will lead to a higher share of solar energy. Companies have the opportunity to choose solar energy and generally renewable sources for their work processes. We can cite the example of IKEA, which has installed solar power plants in 370 of its outlets and warehouses around the world. The company can contribute to the achievement of this goal by installing solar panels on the roofs of their houses and business facilities. Today, the solar power plant is the cheapest technology for the production of electricity, which saves in costs for the consumption of electricity, and the process of electricity production does not endanger the planet. Our association promotes solar energy through active support, campaigns and initiatives to provide information and raise awareness on a number of topics that are critical to the development of our technology.

EP: Of the many campaigns you run, which would you single out as the most important and how do you measure the success of your campaigns?

Valburga Hemetsberger: SolarPower Europe runs campaigns on the most important topics for the solar power sector in Europe. In 2017, we launched the “Little is Beautiful” campaign, which advocated support for micro and small power plants in Europe that were in danger during the negotiations on the Clean Energy Package in the EU. We wanted to provide legal incentives such as priority network access for micro and small solar power plants in homes, 49 schools and hospitals that are key drivers of energy transition in Europe. SolarPower Europe leads a group of 17 partners, including renewable energy associations, mayors, subcontractors, landowners and installers’ associations, and we have finally succeeded in providing priority access to the network for micro and small renewable power plants in Europe. It was a huge win for renewables!

EP: How can solar energy contribute to achieving the goals of the European Green Agreement?

Valburga Hemetsberger: Solar power plants can indeed be the driving force behind the European Green Agreement. To achieve climate neutrality by 2050, Europe needs a major transition in the field of renewable energy. With the incredible benefits it provides, solar energy is at the forefront of this transition as a guiding star.

Photo illustration: Unsplash (Sungrow Emea)

I would like to point out that solar energy is the most flexible source, because a power plant can be installed on a house, school building or company. The possibilities are endless. As much as 25 percent of the energy needs in the European Union can be met by producing electricity in solar power plants. Because it is a cheap energy solution, this type of power plant can also help solve the problem of energy poverty and protect households and companies from soaring energy prices such as fossil fuels.

The solar energy market is growing exponentially. Last year was the best at the European level because as many as 25.9 GW of solar power plants were connected to the grid. As many as 50 and according to the moderate scenario, the capacity of solar power plants in the EU will double in the next four years and reach a total of 327.6 GW by 2025. This huge growth will be the backbone of the necessary and great transition to renewable energy sources.

EP: Solar energy is increasingly used in agriculture around the world. The SolarPower Europe Association has published a guide to best practices in agriculture to present the main business models and benefits of agriculture. How is agrisolar developing and what can we expect in this area by 2050?

Valburga Hemetsberger: Our guide to best practices in agriculture should indicate how agriculture and solar energy can complement each other, and thus provide rural development with the necessary impetus. Agriculture is extremely vulnerable to climate change, although it itself contributes to high carbon emissions. This sector is the second largest emitter in the European Union, right after the energy sector.

Solar energy provides an opportunity to mitigate climate change on multiple levels. When we talk about farming, it helps us protect crops and animals from extreme temperatures and improve biodiversity. There are many successful examples of the application of our manual, such as sophisticated solar panel installations, which are very sensitive to temperature, so they can rotate to protect the vine from the strong sun while producing electricity for hundreds of local households. The application of solar panels in agriculture will certainly grow, since farmers and companies that install solar panels are already realizing the huge potential of this cooperation.


Source: Energetski portal Srbije by www.energetskiportal.rs.

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