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SolarPower Europe: EU countries increase 2030 solar goals by 90% but grid planning trails

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Energy Global,

EU countries are banking on renewables more than ever before, with solar energy targets shooting up by an average of 87%. However, grid and flexibility planning trail far behind renewable goals, putting the energy transition at risk.

Jonathan Bonadio, Senior Policy Advisor at SolarPower Europe, said: “Europe risks putting the cart before the horse. Energy system planning needs to be in sync with energy generation targets. Without proper energy system planning, solar projects will be held up, solar energy will be wasted, and the business case of solar will be undermined.”

Despite being expected in summer 2023, EU member states have now finally submitted their draft updated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs). 26 of 27 countries have submitted, with Austria’s on hold indefinitely. The new plans are a draft update of the NECPs accepted by the European Commission in 2019.

The updated NECPs represent, by weighted average, an 87% increase in solar ambition compared to the 2019 NECPs. Lithuania and Ireland stand out by multiplying their respective targets by more than 5 and 10 respectively. Poland multiplied its target by 3, while Finland, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden more than doubled their previous targets, with Spain increasing its target by 95%.

Despite the boost in ambition, the NECPs do not reflect the investments needed for grid deployment, flexibility, and digitalisation. While most NECPs at least partially mention flexibility, only four provide a real target for demand-side flexibility via smart-meter roll-out or demand-side response (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia).

This demand-side gap risks discouraging citizens’ adaptation to the new energy reality. Europeans should be supported to flex their energy use sensibly and consume electricity when it is abundant – like charging e-vehicles in the middle of the day. Though overlooked in NECPs, demand-side tools should be used to ease pressure on the grid and support the system to add more renewables. Demand-side flexibility means less investment is needed for slow-to-build grid infrastructure.

When it comes to energy storage, nine countries have defined dedicated targets in terms of MW, MWh, or euros (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal). Among these nine countries, four of them (Belgium, Greece, Lithuania, and Portugal) have gone further with dedicated targets for batteries, small scale storage or storage at household level. Most EU countries, however, fail to plan to empower the use of renewables 24/7, day or night.

Though a lack of storage infrastructure, or demand-side response, will undoubtedly and unnecessarily put pressure on the electricity grid, only two EU countries have set a target or an investment plan for their distribution electricity grid – France and Malta. While 20 countries have at least partially acknowledged the investment needs at transmission – high-voltage – level, only France and Malta have set out plans to invest in the distribution grid. France intends to increase the investment in its distribution grid by 20% by 2032, while Malta mentions a series of investment in equipment for the upgrade of the grid.

Based on current ambition, the EU would see 626 GW total ambition by 2030, compared to the EU Solar Strategy target of 750 GW and of the industry potential of 902 GW.



For more news and technical articles from the global renewable industry, read the latest issue of Energy Global magazine.

Energy Global's Spring 2024 issue

The Spring 2024 issue of Energy Global starts with a guest comment from Field on how battery storage sites can serve as a viable solution to curtailed energy, before moving on to a regional report from Théodore Reed-Martin, Editorial Assistant, Energy Global, looking at the state of renewables in Europe. This issue also hosts an array of technical articles on electrical infrastructure, turbine and blade monitoring, battery storage technology, coatings, and more.

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