Europe has reached a “lift-off” moment for the rapid expansion of solar power but the UK is being left behind other nations, according to a new report.
Solar generated 3.8 per cent of the UK’s power last year compared to 9.5 per cent in Spain, 9.1 per cent in Germany and 9.5 per cent in the Netherlands.
Energy think tank Ember found the amount of solar-powered energy fell 3.5 per cent in the UK between 2019 and 2021, despite the government’s pledge to move to net-zero carbon emissions.
Over the same period Again has recorded a 72 per cent jump in solar power generation while the Netherlands achieved an even faster acceleration, up 115 per cent on 2019.
Even Poland, long considered a laggard in the shift to renewables, reported a more-than fivefold increase in solar power, although it started from a low base in 2019.
Ember said solar power was “booming” across the continent, not just in sunnier countries. Despite claims to the contrary, EU wind and solar power have continued to deliver throughout the current energy crisis, setting new records every month in the second half of 2021 except September.
Wind and solar power reached another new record in 2021 (547 TWh), for the first time generating more electricity than gas (524 TWh).
Soaring gas prices have underlined Europe’s reliance on fossil fuels and heaped more pressure on politicians to lay out how they will pursue the energy transition.
Europe is going through a “paradigm shift” in its electricity transition as new wind and solar replaces costly gas instead of more polluting, Ember said.
Between 2010 and 2019, 80 per cent of new renewable energy capacity replaced coal power, the most emissions-intensive fuel. However, as a result of soaring gas prices in the second half of 2021, new renewables replaced fossil gas instead.
This interruption to the EU’s coal phase-out slowed emission reductions. Fossil fuels still accounted for 37 per cent of EU electricity production in 2021, down from 39 per cent in 2019. Renewables generated 37 per cent and nuclear 26 per cent.