Photovoltaic potentials in Europe, 2009


Observations for policy

Europe is entering a new energy landscape with rising energy prices, creating opportunities for the development of renewable energy resources, creating employment and new sources of income. This far reaching transition actions, as policy decisions taken today will be an important element in future competitiveness of regions, cities and different parts of the European territory, in which the prospects differ significantly.

Having the potential for solar energy production is not the same as actually producing and disseminating it. One challenge is the variability of solar power which means that solar energy is best seen as part of an overall energy portfolio where connected networks can shift between sources in response to supply and demand. Furthermore, the necessary energy grids transporting energy to the consumer are an increasingly important policy issue.

Public policies towards a more sustainable territorial management can consider the establishment of solar energy planning tools, especially for regions and cities with low disposable income but considerable solar energy potential. Here, these planning tools may provide the information needed to achieve the greatest deployment of these technologies at the lowest cost possible.

Policy context

Energy is a key issue for growth and territorial development in Europe. The European 2020 Strategy as well as European energy policies underline the need to increase the share of renewable energy to 20 per cent by 2020. The EU targets, known as ’20-20-20′ targets, set three key objectives for 2020: (a) 20 per cent reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990; (b) raising the share the EU consumption produced from renewable resources to 20 per cent; and (c) 20 per cent improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency.

Map interpretation

Looking at the map of Europe a large proportion of regions show a high potential for creating renewable energy solar power.

The map of solar energy potential shows the regional potential for electricity production from solar panels. The regions with greatest potential are located in the south and east of Europe.

The core area of Europe is in general terms showing less potential, while the main potential for solar power lies at the periphery of the European territory.

Concepts and methods

Data on the photovoltaic potential in the regions was provided by the Joint Research Centre’s Sunbird database. The data refers to the yearly total of estimated solar electricity generation (for horizontal, vertical, optimally-inclined planes) in kilowatt hour (kWh) within the built environment. These types of installations will be the first to become competitive at end-use level with electricity obtained from the central grid, with estimates from the International Energy Agency pointing to 2020 as break-even point in the regions with the highest potential.