Europe accounted for nearly two-thirds of the world’s new solar panel installations last year.
The total installed capacity for 2011 was 18.5GW according to a new report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. It accounted for 2% of the EU’s electricity needs, equivalent to the national energy demand of Austria.
Over the past 10 years, the PV industry has grown by more than 40% per year and production costs have decreased by around 60%. The European Commission said the rise in installions could be due to the reduction in solar prices.
Arnulf Jager-Waldau, Scientific Officer and Senior Scientist at the Renewable Energy Unit said: “From 2008 to the second quarter of 2012, residential PV electricity system prices have decreased by almost 60% in the most competitive markets and in some markets the cost of PV-generated electricity is already cheaper than residential electricity retail prices. Due to falling PV system prices and increasing electricity prices, the number of such markets is steadily increasing.”
Around $128 billion of investment was made in solar energy last year, which was 48.5% of all new renewable energy investments. According to the report, Germany, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, France, Belgium and the UK are the leaders in installed solar capacity in Europe.
The report also suggested international co-operation would be important for future solar technologies.