Solar power will be the largest source of power in Europe, in terms of installed capacity, within five years, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) revealed on Tuesday morning.

Fatih Birol told SolarPower Europe’s Solar Power Summit: “Our numbers show that if Europe is keen and able to follow a net-zero goal, within five years of time solar will be the number one electricity capacity in Europe, overtaking everybody.”

The IEA executive director said the information is contained within the organisation’s forthcoming World Energy Outlook report, which is due out on 13 October. He provided no further details, other than to point out that governments were increasingly recognising that PV is the cheapest form of new electricity generation in many parts of the world.

SolarPower Europe is expecting that there will be between 180.1GW and 276.8GW of PV installed across the EU-28 (including the UK) by the end of 2023, up from 131.9MW at the start of this year.

By way of comparison, the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) says that 191.4GW of wind and 156.4GW of hydro were installed in the EU-28 at the end of last year, with official EU statistics putting the capacity of nuclear at 107GW and electricity from “combustible fuels” at 404.2GW (without breaking this figure down any further). Recharge understands that 143.4GW of coal-fired power was in operation in the EU-28 at the end of 2019, but has not been able to provide an installed capacity figure for gas-fired generation.

Of course, capacity is very different to output, with onshore wind producing almost twice as much energy per installed megawatt as solar, and nuclear more than four times as much, due to their respective capacity factors.

Solar generated just over 110GWh of electricity in the EU-27 in 2018, according to the latest official EU figures, compared to 227.4GWh from wind, 389.6GWh from hydro, 491.5GWh from natural gas, and 595.6GWh from coal.