Solar Energy Saved Europeans $29 Billion This Summer

Ember Climate is a renewable energy advocacy group in Europe. This week, it issued a report which claims electricity from solar energy resources saved Europeans $29 billion this summer. Let’s take look at the numbers. Europe derived 12% (99.4 TWh) of its electricity this summer from solar resources. That’s up from 9% (77.7 TWh) last summer. Solar surpassed the share of wind (12%) and hydro (11%) in the power mix and was not far from coal’s 16%.

Without the record 99 TWh of solar generation over the past four months, the EU would have had to purchase another 20 billion cubic meters of unnatural gas, most of it from Russia. Based on the daily gas prices for May to August, this equates to avoided gas costs of €29 billion. (Note: the price of unnatural gas has skyrocketed this year thanks to Russia’s criminal attack on Ukraine.)

Ember says solar records were broken in 18 out of 27 EU countries. The largest increase in solar generation since 2018 was in Poland, which increased solar generation 26 times (albeit from a starting point of next to nothing, but all progress is good), followed by five-fold increases in Finland and Hungary. 10 EU Member States generated over a tenth of their electricity from solar panels during the summer of 2022. The highest share was in the Netherlands (23%), followed by Germany (19%) and Spain (17%).

The summer of 2022 is a clear indicator of the importance of solar energy in Europe’s power mix. While the recent records are clearly positive, the EU needs to make an even bigger push towards 2030, reducing permitting barriers, and increasing funding and solar deployment speeds. This is essential not only for climate targets but, perhaps most of all, for the security of the continent, Ember says.

“As Europe is rocked by the gas crisis, solar energy brings some much-needed relief. Investments in solar capacity have paid off. Every terawatt hour of solar electricity helped reduce our gas consumption, saving billions for European citizens. It’s clear that we need as much solar power as we can get. The EU Parliament has the perfect opportunity to give it to us by adopting the 45% renewable energy target and putting Europe on a pathway towards 600 GW of solar capacity or more by 2030,” says Paweł Czyżak, senior energy and climate data analyst at Ember.

Carbon Brief adds that solar power is growing very quickly in Europe. The EU has seen consistent 15% year on year increases in installed solar capacity — from 104 GW in 2018 to 162 GW in 2021. The jump in solar generation this summer shows that accumulated capacity paying off.

A mix of cost incentives and government initiatives are responsible for the growth of  solar resources. The fact that both southern and northern European countries are expanding solar shows that it is not just sunshine that matters, but also effective policy, Carbon Brief says. The Netherlands, for instance, has seen huge solar growth — despite being at a higher latitude —  because of aggressive policy support from its government.

There is evidence to suggest that the energy crisis in Europe is speeding up the growth of solar. Consumers across Europe, from Germany to the UK, are turning to solar panels to help bring down their energy bills. Google Trends reveals that search terms related to solar panels reached a record high this summer across major economies such as Germany, the UK, France and Spain. With the International Energy Agency having declared recently that solar in the right locations now offers the cheapest electricity in history, its rapid growth looks set to continue, Carbon Brief suggests.

It’s All About Energy Security

With a crazed Russian dictator snarling about making Europeans freeze this winter if they don’t knuckle under to his lunatic demands, the issue is not so much cost any more, even though renewables are far cheaper than any fossil fuel thermal generation at the present (and set to get even cheaper over time). The issue today is energy security — which means not being help hostage to murderous despots.

Pooty Poot has done more to make people realize that relying on others for your electricity is a lose-lose proposition. Renewables don’t rely on pipelines or tankers. They make electricity locally for local consumption. That’s a disruption of how things have been done for the past century. It has been a long time coming, but it is here now and things will never be the same. It’s hard to put a price on knowing your electricity is not being held hostage for political purposes and it will now be doubly hard for fossil fuel companies to put the renewable energy genie back in the bottle.


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