The announcement this week marks a new era for solar technologies, both for solar photovoltaics and solar heating and cooling. In order to reduce the dependency on fossil fuel imports, the European Commission presented the REPowerEU plan, including an increased target for renewables (45%), a ground-breaking Solar Rooftop Initiative, and measures on permitting, and encouraging a large-scale skills partnership under the Pact for Skills. These initiatives are complemented with more detailed proposals included in the EU Solar Energy Strategy.
Solar Heat Europe commends the efforts of the European Commission in swiftly developing proposals to reduce Europe’s dependency on imported energy, in particular Russian gas.
“Our sector is committed to these goals and proposals, and we want to cooperate with the European Commission and the Member States in a swift and successful implementation," stated Costas Travasaros, President of Solar Heat Europe.
The EU Solar Energy Strategy stresses the need to triple the current level of heat generation capacity from solar thermal by 2030, which equates to surpassing 110 GW[th] of solar heat in Europe.
“This goal represents an essential contribution to the decarbonisation of EU’s heat demand.” said Travasaros. “We have the manufacturing capacity in Europe to multiply the current production of solar thermal. We will replace fossil fuel imports with European products and European jobs," Travasaros added.
The main challenge is to quickly deploy available solutions that can provide renewable heat to EU’s buildings and industries. There is not a silver bullet and different technologies are part of the solution. As referred to in the EU Solar Energy Strategy, “through support policies and regulations that provide a level playing field for all solar technologies and do not favour one against the other, national and local authorities can promote the most efficient solution for each situation.”
One clear example of a ground-breaking proposal is the Solar Rooftop Initiative. Commissioner Kadri Simson announced a solar rooftop obligation, for public and commercial buildings from 2026 and for residential buildings by 2029.
The measures proposed under the Solar Rooftop initiative will facilitate the fast deployment of solar energy and eliminate important barriers.
“Solar thermal energy already supplies over 10 million households, and with the Solar Rooftop Initiative, we can increase the solar heat generation for households by 9 TWh until 2025, including an additional 60 GWh of thermal energy storage, adding to the target proposed for solar PV," stated Pedro Dias, Secretary General of Solar Heat Europe.
“In addition, solar thermal will also increase the heat supply to industrial processes and district heating networks, which will also be boosted by other measures and the increasing prices of gas and electricity," Dias added.
As part of the package presented today, the European Commission includes proposals to amend different Directives, namely, to include the 45% target for renewable energy sources in Europe by 2030.
“We have for long supported this higher ambition”, mentioned Dias. “Now is it essential that the European Parliament and the European Council embrace this renewed ambition by revising the binding target for renewable heat and the target for the decarbonisation of industry in the Renewable Energy Directive."