European electricity price hikes supercharge solar
As the continent struggles through this latest seasonal electricity price crisis, the power of solar has been brought to the fore. Households and industry alike have been affected by the challenges in electricity costs in recent weeks, as global economic recovery and supply chain issues have driven high gas prices. Consumers at every level are searching for energy alternatives.
Ahead of October’s European summit, where European leaders met to discuss electricity prices, energy-intensive industries called on leaders to implement policy measures to support industry access to renewable energy. Eight energy-intensive industrial associations, representing the paper, aluminum, and chemical sectors, among others, joined together with SolarPower Europe and WindEurope to highlight the urgent need for policymakers to support the transition to cost-effective, reliable, renewable energy.
Meanwhile, at the household level, our own research shows that solar is already significantly insulating homes from energy price shocks. Households with existing solar installations across the European regions (Poland, Spain, Germany, and Belgium) are saving an average of 60% on their monthly electricity bill during this crisis.
As European Commission Vice-President Dombrovskis put it, this energy costs emergency “only reinforces the plan to move away from fossil fuels”. Vice-President Timmermans was even clearer when speaking to Members of the European Parliament, arguing that if “we had the Green Deal five years earlier, we would not be in this position because then we would have less dependence on fossil fuels and on natural gas.”
The European Commission’s recognition that the green transition must be accelerated was reflected in their ‘toolbox’ for EU member states to tackle the crisis. The guidance reiterates existing proposals on the acceleration of permitting for new renewable energy projects and puts forward recommendations to support industry access to renewable Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs). Corporate PPAs are key to reducing industrial carbon emissions while providing businesses with long-term stable energy costs, and insulating them from the price fluctuations we see today.
With the Commission’s latest endorsements of renewables, the potential of solar stands out as a clear winner. The European Commission has just published its work plan for 2022 – with solar as the sole named energy technology. We must use this opportunity to adopt the clear solutions available to address the remaining challenges to fulfilling the tremendous potential of solar. Just looking at the rooftop segment, for example, rooftop solar should be the expected standard with newly built or renovated commercial and industrial sites. More widely, we need to tackle the lengthy and burdensome permitting processes that slow down the installation of solar sites.
While countries remain dependent on fossil fuels, future energy price hikes are guaranteed. Last year, six EU member states, including Spain, called for a commitment to 100% renewable electricity systems. To take this further, governments must launch dedicated tenders and establish the right price signals for solar and storage projects, while implementing ambitious innovation policies to deploy the technologies that we need in our grids.
European leaders will meet again in December to discuss the energy price issue, with the Commission set to publish its latest additions to the Fit for 55 package in the same week. SolarPower Europe and our partners will spend the coming weeks and months working with policymakers to ensure that any legislative moves reflect the role of solar in shielding homes and businesses from price hikes while protecting the planet from carbon emissions.
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