Report: Europe recorded record solar output amid Covid-19 lockdowns

Output over the three-month period was 19% higher than the previous peak

The firm’s latest analysis of the European solar market concluded that solar output between April and June 2020 was 19% higher than output during the corresponding period in 2018, when the last peak was recorded.

Assessing the entire first half of the year, the market analyst firm concluded that generation totalled 68TWh, up from the 59TWh generated during the fist half of 2019. Data from 36 countries was assessed.

This spike in output is largely attributable to increased capacity installation after what has been described as “slowed” uptake. Europe’s capacity and output had been steadily rising since 2009, with a particular boom between 2009 and 2013, but had remained fairly steady between 2017 and 2019, according to EnAppSys data.

2020 has marked the beginning of a “resurgence” for Europe’s solar market, the firm said, following a string of cuts to subsidies. In the UK, the Feed-In-Tariffs (FITs) scheme and Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme both closed in 2017, causing a downturn which lasted around two years as the market pivoted to adapt. Similar subsidy regimes were cut completely or scaled back in Spain, France and Italy between 2017 and 2019.

In Germany, however, a previous mandate which would render all arrays which would take national capacity past 52GW ineligible for subsidies was removed in 2019.

“After cuts in subsidy regimes occurred across European markets, growth in build-out has since slowed, partly due to lower incentives and also influenced by reduced investor confidence in the reliability of existing schemes, EnAppSys said,

Solar boon?

Many nations have moved to ease planning restrictions in a bid to kick-start domestic economies in the wake of Covid-19, taking decisions which will have a knock-on effect for the solar sector, the EnAppSys report adds.

It concludes that the effect of these changes will compound the growing popularity of corporate power purchase agreements (PPAs), which have helped large installations come online without subsidies. Europe’s largest solar farm to date, Iberdrola’s 500MW Nuñez de Balboa facility in northern Spain, has PPAs with three corporations including Uvesco, for example.

Ultimately, however, the cost of energy storage will need to fall as rapidly as the cost of generation for a “new dawn of solar expansion” to be realised in Europe, senior analyst Rob Lalor said.

According to 2019 analysis from Bloomberg NEF, battery prices have fallen 87% in real terms over the past decade, from $1,100 per kWh in 2010 to $156 per kWh. With these trends in mind, BNEF is forecasting that battery prices will fall below $100 per kWh in real terms by 2024 – the date by which it believes cumulative global demand will surpass 2TWh.

Sarah George

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