Solar Power in Europe and The Ridiculous Difference Between Germany and The Rest

Solar Power in Europe

Is there going to be a solar market in Europe, now that Germany plans to cut subsidies for solar plants?

Looking at the charts below, we can come up with a short answer for the long term and that's yes. (pun intended)

Solar Power and GPD per Capita in Europe

It's true that the cut in subsidies can cause the market to shrink but it's also true that solar energy is something modern countries will inevitably embrace. A reason for the cut in subsidies is the falling price of solar panels which means it's actually cheaper to invest in solar using your own money now.

The Germans were the pioneers and may have created an artificial market. But now that they went further than their planned PV installments, they're gonna let the market mature and develop on it's own, based on supply and demand.

So by examining the first chart above we can notice the ridiculous difference in installed solar power between Germany and the rest of the developed countries in Europe.

Another paradox is that Germany is not actually a sunny country, unlike Spain, Portugal, Italy or Greece for that matter.

Installed Solar Power in Europe

Can we say that France, UK, Austria, Italy are ambitious countries? I think that would't be far from the truth. Consider that UK didn't adopt Euro as a currency, so they're pretty ambitious.

These are similar countries in terms of wealth (see GPD per capita), population and area. So it's only fair to assume that at some point they'll wanna match or overtake the Germans for solar energy. Politicians may even use this argument in their campaigns - that's coz the general public is more aware of the benefits of green energy.

Treat this graph as signal for the growth potential of solar in Europe over the next few years (with or without subsidies).

Who are the big losers?

France and UK could definitively do better.

Both having approximately 60 million inhabitants and a GDP per capita well over $30,000 - it's obvious they didn't care much for implementing solar renewable energy during the last years.

Again, this comes in contrast with the determination of Germans who not only said they wanna have 20% renewable energy by 2020 but they actually started to take action. Closing their nuclear plants is no myth.

Speaking of that, here's the frustration of a solar engineer from UK who worked on German solar sites (video below). That's my frustration also and it may as well be your frustration, no matter where you live (Germany excluded).

Who has the potential to be a winner in solar energy?

Judging by their wealth, area and solar radiation map - Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece (let's ignore their financial problems) have all it takes to be a winner.

And we're not talking about being dominant over the rest of the European countries. No. Not that kind of winners.

It's about being energy independent, taking care of the environment and consequently offering a good living (by all standards) to their citizens.

It's about clean air to breathe. And not being penalized by international committees for burning too much fossil fuels.

Installed Solar Power 
(MW peak) in 2011
GDP per Capita ($) 
in 2010
Germany 24,875.00 40,875 357,021 82,217,800
Italy 12,763.50 35,435 301,230 59,715,625
Spain 4,214.20 31,946 505,782 46,777,373
France  2,831.40 44,747 547,030 63,601,002
Czech Republic 1,959.10 18,288 78,866 10,674,947
Belgium 1,812.30 42,630 30,510 11,007,020
United Kingdom 1,014.00 35,334 244,820 60,587,000
Greece 631.30 29,635 131,940 11,606,813
Slovakia 488.20 16,282 48,845 5,422,366
Portugal 143.60 21,408 92,391 10,617,192
Austria 173.80 44,987 83,858 8,169,929
Nederlands 118.00 48,223 41,526 16,773,200


Solar grants and subsidies have sparked this market into existence. The industry as it is, is supported by governments.

However, the cost of wafers and solar panels is declining and grid parity has been achieved is some parts of the world.

Since the technology is developing fast and PV modules are versatile, it won't be long until solar energy will be equal to the energy industry. This just stresses the words of Hermann Scheer (the initiator of the renewable energy act) who said:

Don't invest in large scale conventional energy plants. They'll become stranded investments.

The charts will vary but one thing is certain: the blue bars representing installed solar power (MW) can only go up for the rest of the big guys in Europe.

Sources: Wikipedia, Reuters

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