Solar Power Shines as Europe’s Energy System Thrives Amidst Extreme Heat

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Solar Output Sets Records in Southern Europe

More Solar Helps Meet Energy Demand for Cooling

A major increase in solar power generation in southern Europe played a leading role in averting energy shortages during the heatwaves of recent weeks when temperatures broke records and drove unprecedented demand for air conditioning.

Strong Performance in Summer Heat

Solar power is particularly suited to coping with summer heat as the sun’s radiation is strongest around the hottest part of the day, when electricity demand for cooling is also at its highest.

“The very significant growth in solar basically compensates for the peaks that are caused by air conditioning,” Kristian Ruby, secretary general of electricity industry group Eurelectric, said of the situation in Spain.

Increased Solar Installation

Spain and Greece are among the countries that have installed many more solar panels in the face of record high energy prices last year and the quest for increased energy security linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Spain added a record 4.5 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity last year, resulting in solar energy output in July – typically one of the sunniest months – that was higher than any month to date, Spanish electricity grid operator Red Electrica said.

Data from Ember showed solar provided almost 24% of Spain’s electricity in July this year, up from 16% in July 2022.

Solar’s Impact in Managing Demand

  • When soaring temperatures and demand for cooling led to a peak in Sicilian power demand on July 24, nearly half of the excess demand – which totaled 1.3 GW – was covered by solar.
  • Sicily’s solar production last month was more than double that of July 2022.
  • During Greece’s peak power demand this year, also on July 24, solar photovoltaics covered 3.5GW of the total 10.35GW demand.
  • Solar energy has covered more than 100% of the extra energy needed during midday spikes in power demand even in cooler and less sunny western countries such as Belgium.

Challenges Faced by Solar and Energy Infrastructure

Solar alone cannot hold up grids under severe strain. Catania, below Mount Etna in eastern Sicily, has faced power and water supply cuts that local officials blamed in part on the heat. In Athens, power grid operator IPTO said wildfires had damaged sections of the electricity grid.

Scientists expect climate change will make heatwaves more frequent and severe in the coming years, adding to the burden on Europe’s energy infrastructure.

Importance of Energy Grids and Storage

In a letter to the European Commission, industry groups including SolarPower Europe urged policymakers to speed up investments in energy grids and promote projects that couple solar with energy storage, to ensure solar power expands quickly enough to meet climate change goals.

Reporting by Kate Abnett and Susanna Twidale; editing by Barbara Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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