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SolarPower Europe exposes grid planning deficiencies as solar targets surge by 90%

EU countries are leaning heavily on renewables with solar goals soaring by 87%. Nevertheless, inadequate grid planning poses a risk to the energy transition, says the SolarPower Europe.

Although originally due in summer 2023, EU member states have only now submitted their draft updated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs). Twenty-six out of twenty-seven countries have submitted theirs, while Austria's remains on hold indefinitely. These new plans represent a draft update of the NECPs approved by the European Commission in 2019.

Solar energy

The updated NECPs showcase a significant increase in solar ambition, with a weighted average rise of 87% compared to the 2019 NECPs. Lithuania and Ireland standout with their targets multiplied by more than 5 and 10 respectively. Poland has tripled its target, while Finland, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden have more than doubled theirs. Spain has increased its target by 95%.

Archiving targets

In spite of this heightened ambition, the NECPs fall short in reflecting the necessary investments for grid deployment, flexibility, and digitalization. While most NECPs mention flexibility to some extent, only four provide concrete targets for demand-side flexibility through smart-meter roll-out or demand-side response (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia).

Demand-side tools

The absence of demand-side solutions poses a risk of hindering citizens' adaptation to the evolving energy landscape. Europeans need support to intelligently adjust their energy consumption, such as by charging electric vehicles during off-peak hours. Despite being overlooked in NECPs, demand-side tools are crucial for alleviating pressure on the grid and facilitating the integration of more renewables. Leveraging demand-side flexibility reduces the need for extensive investments in slow-to-develop grid infrastructure.

Energy storage

Regarding energy storage, nine countries have established specific targets in terms of MW, MWh, or euros (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal). Among them, Belgium, Greece, Lithuania, and Portugal have taken additional steps by setting targets for batteries, small-scale storage, or household-level storage. However, most EU countries lack plans to enable the continuous use of renewables around the clock.

Distribution electricity grids

Despite the inevitable strain on the electricity grid due to insufficient storage infrastructure or demand-side response, only two EU countries, France and Malta, have established targets or investment plans for their distribution electricity grids. While 20 countries have acknowledged, at least partially, the investment requirements at the transmission (high-voltage) level, only France and Malta have outlined specific plans for distribution grid investments. France aims to boost its distribution grid investment by 20% by 2032, whereas Malta mentions a series of investments in equipment to upgrade the grid.

Difficulties to reach EU Solar Strategy target

Considering the current level of ambition, the EU is projected to reach a total ambition of 626 GW by 2030, falling short of the EU Solar Strategy target of 750 GW and the industry potential of 902 GW. With the draft NECPs now submitted to the European Commission, Member States have until June 30th to propose any updates before their plans are finalized.


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