Solar power saved the EU €29bn this summer

In a tough summer for Europe that brought record-high energy prices and sweltering heatwaves, solar power has provided some much-needed relief.

By Paweł Czyżak for CarbonBrief

Our analysis published today reveals that record levels of solar power across the EU this summer avoided the need for 20bn cubic metres (bcm) of gas, which would have cost €29bn (£25bn) to import.

The success of solar could help shine a pathway out of the energy and climate insecurity that the EU is currently facing.

Many EU countries have already increased renewables targets in the wake of soaring gas prices and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, looking to replace expensive gas imports. Upcoming EU-wide policy discussions could mean that solar plays a much bigger role in the future EU electricity system.

Solar record

Europe is currently facing an energy crisis of unprecedented proportions. Russia’s squeeze on fossil fuel supplies is pushing electricity prices into all-time highs, with additional stress caused by nuclear reactor unavailability in France and drought impacting hydroelectricity generation in many European countries.

At the same time, solar has delivered record-high generation across the summer of 2022, helping keep the lights on and reducing the EU’s now critical gas consumption.

As the chart below shows, EU solar generation increased by 28% in summer 2022 (May-August), compared with the same period a year earlier.

Without record solar electricity generation over the past four months, the EU would have had to purchase an additional 20bcm of gas at a cost of about €29bn (£25bn). The new solar electricity added since 2021 alone avoided €6bn (£5bn) worth of gas imports.

During the peak summer months of May to August, solar power generated a record 12% of all the EU’s electricity – up from 9% last summer. That puts it on a level with wind and ahead of hydro, though still four percentage points behind coal power.

Read the full story with charts, on CarbonBrief here.