European solar thermal market sees slight increase

Solar thermal panels. [NAVFAC / Flickr]

The solar thermal market in the European Union grew by almost 10% last year, a substantial increase, which remains insufficient to achieve short-term objectives. EURACTIV’s partner le Journal de l’Environnement reports.

“After a decade of poor performance, the European solar heat market recovered in 2018 with a growth of 8.4% compared to 2017 results,” according to a 2019 barometer published by Eurobserv’ER’s, a consortium specialising in monitoring the development of renewable energy in the European Union.

This means that the European solar thermal sector is seeing a slight increase.

Indeed, 2,208,681 square metres of solar thermal panels had been installed in the 28 EU member states in 2018, compared to 2,037,324 m2 in 2017.

By the end of 2018, 53,453,638 m2 of panels were operational in the 28 EU member states at the end of 2018 (+ 2.4% compared to 2017).

A slight increase

According to the consortium, this corresponds to a good performance that needs perspective.

“The late return to growth in the solar thermal market, even if it were to continue in 2019 and 2020, will not be enough for the European Union countries to achieve the targets they have set for 2020 (6.45 million tonnes of oil equivalent or  6.45 Mtoe).”

By 2020, 2.6 Mtoe should be reached.

“The solar energy sector’s main obstacle continues to be initial investments as the bulk of the energy bill of the installation that has more than a 20-year lifespan, is paid for at the time of purchase,” according to the study.

The same can be said for concentrated solar thermal energy (solar thermal power plants): The capacity of the European wind farm stands at 2,314.3 Megawatts (MW), a figure that is expected to reach 2,323 MW by 2020.

However, the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) roadmaps recommended a threshold of 6,594 MW by this deadline.

Good results for France’s overseas territories

When it comes to France, however, its performance almost tripled during that period.

The installed surface area of thermal solar collectors increased by 27.5% in 2018 to 156,122 m2. However, the dynamics vary from one market to another.

“The main driving force behind these results is the excellent results coming from France’s overseas territories, particularly in Guadeloupe, where, according to the Regional Energy and Climate Observatory, 18,000 solar water heaters (SWHs) were installed in 2018 (7,000 in 2017)”.

The implementation of so-called energy saving certificates explain these figures. They have ensured that the installation of one solar water heater only costs one euro.

In metropolitan France alone, there was a 7.3% increase in 2018, which corresponds to 60,715 m2 (including 5,500 m2 of unglazed collectors).

“This growth comes from an increase in activity by collective buildings (excluding swimming pools) which brings this figure to 35,204 m2 in 2018 (+ 35.9% compared to 2017), of which approximately 30,000 m2 is for collective residential buildings or tertiary buildings, and 5,204 m2 are used for industrial heat production.”

For example, solar panels were installed in the Melville agri-food site and the Condat paper mill.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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