A major challenge for Spain: More solar panel installations

by Lorraine Williamson
solar panel installations

MADRID – A year of skyrocketing electricity prices leads to a growing interest in filling roofs with solar panels to be partly self-sufficient and to save on electricity. However, Spain still has a long way to go compared to other countries. 

“In Spain, for example, there are 150,000 self-consumption installations and in Germany, there are 2 million,” says Daniel Pérez, vice president of the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF), the most important association in the sector. The forecast is to reach 14 GW of self-consumption by 2030. The number of solar panel installations has indeed increased in recent months. This is as a result of the energy crisis and the war in Ukraine. However, in other European countries, self-consumption has developed much further. 

“A lot of room for growth” 

Pérez continues: “There is a lot of room for growth. We could reach a million self-consumption installations in two or three years,” he adds. There is margin and motivation as the surge in energy prices that started a year ago, impacted by the war in Ukraine and the threat that Russia will shut down the gas tap this winter, has once again put self-consumption at the centre of consumers’ minds. 

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“It makes sense that people now want to install solar panels, but this is not just a temporary issue. We are experiencing stable growth,” adds the Unef representative. 

Solar panels offer more options than alternatives 

The fact that self-consumption in Spain has been increasing for months is also recognised by the Institute for Energy Diversification and Savings (IDAE). Its director emphasised on Monday that the possibilities of increasing the generation of electricity with solar panels and self-consumption are much more immediate and beneficial than alternatives such as nuclear energy, which right-wing political groups are advocating. “Only last year, 1.2 GW of self-consumption from solar panels was installed on roofs,” he said in an interview on Cadena Ser. On the other hand, “to install 1 GW of nuclear energy, 20 years and many more investments are needed”. The installation percentage of solar panels doubles every year. 

Related post: Ikea announces huge solar investment in Spain 

Spain’s goal is for 75% of electricity generated in Spain to be of renewable origin by the end of this decade. According to the IDAE, 14 GW of that percentage would come from own consumption. But there could be more. Since 2018, Spaniards have been installing more solar panels on their roofs than anticipated. In that year the so-called ‘solar tax’ was abolished and the processing of this type of provision was facilitated. 

Solar generation accounts for 12% of the total 

In recent weeks, solar generation has accounted for about 12% of the total. Only on some days of extreme heat – when solar panels are less efficient, this dropped to almost 6%. To meet the targets by 2030, photovoltaic energy could account for between 20% and 25% of total generation on an annual basis. 

“The most important thing is not only how much solar energy we produce, but also how much dirty energy we have displaced,” adds Unef’s vice president. “Every KWh we make with solar energy is one KWh less that we buy from Putin. And in the current situation that is very important.” 

According to Daniel Pérez, “if you decide self-consumption today, you can have the installation in two months. And moreover, that should already be noticeable this winter”. And to this is added the savings on the electricity bill. Which according to the IDAE can be between 30% and 60%. 

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