The current situation with rising energy costs has refocused attention on alternative energy. For years, we have been dependent on fossil fuels and foreign resources for the supply of gas, electricity, and oil, which has led to a neglect of investments and research in the field of renewable energies. As a result of the overall ecological, economic, and not least political development, the focus is shifting back to an alternative decentralised energy supply. The advancing climate change has increased the pressure for the necessary shift toward solar power generation. Ironically, global warming, with its long sunny days, is encouraging more solar power generation:
The increase in sunny days in 2022 set a record for sunshine hours across Europe with an increase of 11 billion kilowatt hours. New PV installations in Germany will increase by 9 gigawatts by 2023, 13 gigawatts by 2026, and 22 gigawatts by 2026. With the changes in laws and regulations for solar power generation pushed through by the government, this will be a win-win situation for everyone. VAT on small solar installations has been abolished, encouraging more people to invest in rooftop installations.
China is the largest solar energy producer in the world, producing (as of 2021) an incredible 340 gigawatts of solar power. Since 2011, more than 50 billion USD has been invested in new PV capacity, a figure ten times higher than the whole of Europe. By comparison, 340 gigawatts would cover 50 percent of Germany’s annual electricity demand. However, Germany is doing a lot to keep up with the solar trend and ranks fourth in the world in solar power production with 65 gigawatts, which is 10 percent of the country’s demand but faces competitive conditions in the supply chains that slow down growth.
One of the most significant drawbacks of solar production is the heavy dependence on the Asian market, especially China, for the parts needed for solar farms. Currently, there is a shortage of inverters, modules, and computer chips to run an efficient system. Even though it is possible to produce these parts here, we cannot compete with the production costs and prices in China. Fortunately, the cost of components has fallen over the last decade, but because the demand is so great, these parts are not being produced and shipped in sufficient quantities.
In a recent statement, the European Commission announced that it would do everything it could to rebuild the European solar industry and thus, given the impact of the war, reduce dependence on Russian gas.
“We need to bring production back to Europe and the Commission is ready to do everything to achieve this,” said Kadri Simpson at the recent Solar Power Summit in Brussels.
The future of energy supply is finally taking a turn for the better. What was once the threat of climate change can become a positive climate future and civilisation’s gain.