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Harnessing solar power: The future shines bright

Solar power is a clean, abundant and increasingly competitive source of renewable energy. By helping the EU achieve its goal of transitioning from imported fossil fuels and move towards sustainable cleaner energy, solar power can also drive technological innovation and generate employment. Furthermore, solar power is already making a key contribution to the European energy mix and, based on current market trends, has the potential to meet 20 % of the EU electricity demand in 2040.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment
Industrial Technologies icon Industrial Technologies
Energy icon Energy

The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) set a target for all EU countries to fulfil 20 % of their energy needs though renewable sources by 2020. Following this, EU countries have made a commitment to reach their own national renewable targets and adopted national renewable energy action plans to showcase the actions they would take to meet their obligations under the directive. The revised Renewable Energy Directive (2018/2001) in December 2018 formed part of the ‘Clean Energy for all Europeans’ package. Considered one of the world’s most ambitious renewable energy policies, it commits EU countries to achieving a renewable energy target of at least 32 % by 2030. The new Governance regulation requires EU countries to draft 10-year National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) for 2021-2030, outlining how they will meet the new 2030 targets.

Meeting key renewable energy targets

Actions that support the development of renewable energy technologies are vital to meet these ambitious targets. Solar energy will therefore play a prominent role in driving the transformation of electricity generation. To ensure the technology is in place to harness the resource, research is focusing on increasing the efficiency of solar cells and modules, investigating new materials, reducing generation costs and demonstrating new production lines. Europe’s plan for the delivery of these technologies is the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET plan). This has set the research priorities for the different renewable energy technologies as well as the implementation plans for each, in particular the Implementation Plan for PV.

Shining a spotlight on research and innovation

This CORDIS Results Pack focuses on 10 ongoing, or recently ended, projects funded by the EU within Horizon 2020, which address the technical and scientific challenges facing solar power. The CPVMatch project showcased the enormous potential of concentrated solar PV with Germanium substrate cells. This popular material for integrated circuits is at the forefront of next-generation, multi-junction solar cells. Another project, Sharc25, set out to make efficient, thin-film (CIGS) solar cells for the next generation of more cost-effective solar modules. Nano-Tandem, using nanowires, demonstrated the major advances that can be achieved with these miniature materials in innovative solar cells. CHEOPS helped to upscale production of perovskite-based solar cells, while PVSITES is paving the way towards the global uptake of building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) – led by European industry. ARCIGS-M’s goal of advanced materials and nanotechnologies CIGS PV device architectures also targets the BIPV sector. NextBase is developing next-generation c-Si solar cells and modules and DISC is harnessing the potential of silicon in PV technology through the use of carrier-selective junctions. The AMPERE project is concentrating on manufacturing more efficient and reliable PV modules. Finally, the STARCELL project is advancing the development of thin-film PV technology using exclusively materials that are abundant in the Earth’s crust.