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Ukraine - Russia War Speeds up Solar Power Growth in EU

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Forecasts for solar power growth in the European Union are now 37% higher than pre-war estimates, driven by member countries' response to the energy crisis exacerbated by Russia's war in Ukraine.

The efforts to remove barriers to obtaining permits have been one of the key responses by the governments to ease the energy crisis and to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies, particularly solar and wind.

The EU legislation requires permits for renewables not to exceed two years.



However, the average permit time for onshore wind projects exceeds the two-year mark among 18 countries analyzed by London-based energy think tank Ember and its climate data analyst Harriet Fox.

The process for obtaining a permit for an onshore wind project could range from 30 months in Romania to 120 months in Croatia, five times longer than the EU’s binding limit of two years.



Solar permit times can change from 12 months to 48 months, double the binding limit, depending on the countries, according to the research study.

Common issues with permitting include lack of digitalization in the overall process, lack of resources within local authorities, delays caused by legal appeals and overlap of responsibility among different countries, according to the research study.

Rooftop solar has taken off, said Fox, as permitting for rooftop solar is less cumbersome, and accounts for 66% of the EU's total installed solar capacity.

"I think it really speaks how much power people have in the energy transition," she said.

Energy crisis brings expected solar growth 2 years earlier

Solar capacity additions hit 41.4 gigawatts in 2022 in the EU, reaching a total of 209 gigawatts, recent Solar Power Europe data shows.

The pre-war forecast was 35.7 gigawatts of solar capacity additions for 2022 in a best case scenario.

The post-war forecast suggests 50 gigawatts of annual solar capacity additions this year, which was not expected to happen until 2025.

By surpassing the landmark 50 gigawatts threshold for the first time in 2023, cumulative solar power capacity in the EU is expected to reach 400 gigawatts by 2025.

The total solar fleet in the EU is projected to reach 920 gigawatts by 2030 in a post-war forecast, 37% higher than the pre-war estimate of 672 gigawatts.

"The current capacity of the solar projects in the pipeline in the EU is estimated to be about 120 gigawatts. This capacity is waiting due to the long permitting processes and a substantial amount of this capacity can be deployed," Heymi Bahar, senior analyst at International Energy Agency (IEA), said.

The energy crisis has been a catalyst for governments to simplify the permit processes, Bahar said.

"Long permit periods have been an issue for years and now we see that there are steps to remove permitting barriers to accelerate the deployment of renewables," he said, adding that rooftop solar has advanced more quickly after the war as the permit granting has been easier for these projects.

Wind power to see gradual acceleration unlike solar

Despite the expected exponential growth in solar, wind power capacity could see a gradual acceleration in the EU.

"The big problems with wind are now high inflation and the global supply chain that have been caused by the cost of manufacturing turbines. The wind supply chain is a global issue," Fox said.

Europe installed a record 19 gigawatts of new wind capacity in 2022; 16 gigawatts of this amount was in the EU, according to Wind Europe, an industrial association promoting wind energy in European countries.

The pre-war estimates for wind power additions in the EU was 15.8 gigawatts.

The total wind power capacity in Europe is now 255 gigawatts.

Unlike solar, the forecast for wind power growth in Europe remains almost unchanged compared to the pre-war estimates.

Europe is expected to install 129 gigawatts of new wind power capacity between 2023-2027 while the EU is estimated to deploy 98 gigawatts out of this total, with an average of 20 gigawatts per year.​​​​​​​

Wind Europe warns the EU should be building 30 gigawatts of new wind capacity per year to meet its 2030 targets.



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