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EU solar bounces back in 2018 led by German and Dutch push

Falling prices and removal of trade measures against Chinese products helped an installation boom

The European solar market bounced back to life last year led by very strong installation figures in Germany and the Netherlands, as prices fell and the EU lifted trade measures on Chinese solar panels.

The EU installed about 8GW of solar power systems in 2018, a 36% jump from the previous year, according to an estimate from industry group SolarPower Europe. Installations in Europe as a whole (including Turkey) grew by around 20% to 11GW.

“It is good to see Europe fully embracing solar again,” SolarPower Europe chief executive Walburga Hemetsberger said.

“With solar being the most popular energy source among EU citizens, the most versatile and often also the lowest cost power generation source, and with cost reductions continuing, we are only at the beginning of a long upward trend for solar in Europe.”

Solar additions in Germany soared 68% to 2.96GW, making it Europe’s largest solar market once more. It was also the first time in several years that installations exceeded a government-set target of 2.5GW again.

The renewed solar boom in Germany comes as solar has beaten wind power in recent tenders in the country, and utility EnBW has announced it plans to build Germany’s first subsidy-free PV array.

Solar to outstrip wind 'within five years'

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In the EU, the Netherland’s came second, installing 1.4GW last year, almost double the 0.77GW in 2017.

“The EU has done its homework – by removing the trade measures on solar panels and ensuring a highly positive framework for solar through the Clean Energy Package legislation, the stage is set for significant solar growth,” said SolarPower Europe policy director Aurélie Beauvais.

Her colleague, Michael Schmela, head of market intelligence at the trade group, said the EU’s solar market growth could actually have been even higher last year.

“But a sudden demand pull from China at the end of last year led to a supply shortage for high-quality panels in Europe, forcing several developers to delay the completion of projects into 2019. However, the good news is that 2019 will be an even better year for solar in Europe.”

Outside the EU’s (still) 28 member states, Turkish installation numbers went down 37% to 1.64GW after a decline in demand due to the financial downturn in the country.

SolarPower Europe’s installation estimates are based on official data from government agencies whenever possible, and can still change somewhat as data for the last quarter of 2018 is often not yet completely available and will be updated by national entities.

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