23 member states sign Solar Charter, vow to tackle unfair competition – Euronews

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Leaders pledge extended support with new European Solar Charter to back European EU photovoltaic manufacturing.

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Leaders of 23 EU member states and the European Commission have signed a Solar Charter pledging to step up financing opportunities, skills capacity and to address unfair competition in the bloc during an Energy Council.

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and the Netherlands signed the European Solar Charter in Brussels on Monday (April 15) in Brussels in an attempt to accelerate deployment of solar energy in the EU, with a view to reaching the bloc’s binding commitment to provide at least 42.5% renewable energy by 2030.

Tinne Van der Straeten, Belgian Minister for Energy currently holding the rotating EU Presidency, said the charter “aims to anchor and maintain the competitiveness” of Europe’s solar industry.

In 2023, a new record was set with 27% of electricity in the EU coming from solar and wind power, according to the Belgian Presidency. However, while 56 GW of photovoltaic (PV) panels were installed in Europe in 2023, according to the Belgian minister, 97% of the installed capacity was made up of Chinese panels.

Member states are also considering “innovative forms” of solar energy deployment such as agriculture-PV, floating solar, and PVs integrated with infrastructure, vehicles or buildings. Plans are also in motion to expand skills for the solar sector through the Solar Academy and the Renewable Energy Skills Partnership.

“The European Solar Charter brings together the Commission, national authorities and the industry, fostering cooperation and bringing support to the production of solar panels made in Europe,” said Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson.

Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of industry group SolarPower Europe, said the Solar Charter marked a key moment of “recognition” and acclaimed leaders for standing up to their commitments.

“The continent’s governments have made a high-level promise to our manufacturers, recognising their critical role in the strategic supply chains of today and tomorrow,” said Hemetsberger.

She noted, however, that “rapid action” and “concrete measures” at national and EU level are paramount to support manufacturers and keep unfair foreign competition at bay.

“This means rolling out resilience criteria in public procurement and auctions as soon as possible, unlocking subsidy support, and establishing dedicated EU financing for solar,” she added, referring to the provisions in the Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA) which seek to apply resilience and sustainability criteria to avoid overdependence on foreign sources.

Member states alongside industry representatives have committed to promote supply of solar PV products in Europe through “rapid implementation” of the NZIA and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), meant to revamp old buildings, which promotes installation of solar rooftops.

The EPBD requires member states to take action in public and non-residential buildings from 2026 to 2030 to progressively equip roofs with solar installations. To do so, governments must also roll out national strategies, policies and measures on solar installations in residential buildings.

Rooftop solar PV growth is thriving, growing 54% year-on-year, according to a report from the NGO Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, putting France and Lithuania as the frontrunners and Bulgaria and Romania as the laggards.

EU leaders are considering “all available EU funding opportunities” including “flexibilities” under State aid, according to the Charter.

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