Study: 25 percent of current EU electricity consumption could be produced by PV rooftop systems

»Rooftop solar photovoltaic systems can make a significant contribution to Europe's energy transition,« according to a study »A high-resolution geospatial assessment of the rooftop solar photovoltaic potential in the European Union«. »Realizing this potential raises challenges at policy and electricity system planning level.« To address this, the authors have developed a geospatially explicit methodology using up-to-date spatial information of the EU building stock to quantify the available rooftop area for PV systems. Accordingly, EU rooftops could potentially produce 680 TWh of solar electricity annually, two thirds of which at a cost lower than the current residential tariffs. The researchers estimate that almost 25 percent of current EU electricity consumption could be produced by rooftop systems; in 2016, all PV-produced electricity accounted for just 3.94 percent.
Cyprus, Malta and Portugal could cover a very high share of their electricity needs by developing rooftop PV systems at their most advantageous sites. The second group of countries is Italy and Greece that could potentially cover 30 percent of their electricity consumption through rooftop systems. France, Spain and Germany could also cover a significant part (20 to 30 percent) of their annual consumption with such systems. »Considering the very large energy needs of these three countries, it appears that rooftop systems can play a major role in the EU energy transition, even if they are only partially utilized.«
In several countries including Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia, Estonia the rooftop PV systems would deliver electricity at a higher cost than the electricity tariffs, and cost-competitive production is not possible, at least under the current financial and technological conditions. The economic potential of rooftop PV could potentially cover 16.8 percent of the total electricity consumption in the EU.
Grid infrastructure and operation costs may render part of the economic potential less attractive investment. Prioritizing installations at the advantageous locations where the production cost is near its low-end (9 to 11 Eurocent per /kWh) is a low-risk strategy to deploy systems that will contribute at least 50,000 GWh/year in the EU.
Assuming full exploitation of the technical potential, five countries could cover 30 percent of their electricity consumption by rooftop PV, four countries could cover 20 percent, and another two would exceed 15 percent. The additional share of rooftop electricity in the EU would then be 24.4 percent.
According to the study, decentralized electricity generation with renewable technologies such as rooftop PV systems can contribute significant power capacity additions through a large number of smaller-scale installations, taking advantage of the continuously decreasing cost of PV installations. This category covers a wide range of sizes, from residential roofs with systems of a few kW to large-area commercial roofs. In 2017, the PV contribution to the EU electricity demand was 114 TWh, from an installed capacity of 107 GW. Considering that the share of residential and commercial rooftop systems is estimated at 28 percent and 18 percent respectively, it appears that EU hosts so several million of rooftop systems.
The EU's renewable energy directive set the target for the 2030 share of renewables in gross final energy consumption at 32 percent. »To achieve this, the EU needs to increase its use of renewables in the power sector by a much higher amount and a significant part of this will come from solar systems«, says the report The EU will need to increase its use of renewable energy in the power sector to at least 65 percent, with the contribution of solar being of the order of 440 TWh per year. This implies scope for tens of millions of new rooftop systems.
»A high-resolution geospatial assessment of the rooftop solar photovoltaic potential in the European Union«, published in the »Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews«, Volume 114, October 2019. The article is available at »Science direct« (www.sciencedirect.com).
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