EuropeOn Secretary General delivers the conclusions of the annual SolarPower Summit

Julie Beaufils, the Secretary General of our association, was invited to deliver the conclusions of SolarPower Europe’s annual Summit, that took place in Brussels on 31 March, after two years of digital events.

The Summit gathered hundreds of representatives of the solar industry, as well as high-level policymakers, such as Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson.

EuropeOn Secretary General was not on her own for the conclusions of the Summit, she shared the responsibility with Adélaïde Charlier, climate activist and the Belgian face of the International youth movement “Fridays for Future” that was initiated in 2018 in Sweden by Greta Thunberg.

Together, they discussed the sunny future of solar power in Europe, as the least expensive energy option and a relatively easily deployable one. Of course, a major hurdle that was much discussed during the day is the length of permitting procedures. The Commission and the industry agreed on the need to accelerate permitting and Commissioner Kadri Simson will present in a few months a “Solar Strategy” that aims to solve this issue.

However, rooftop PV is not so much hampered by permitting as large-scale projects. It has been identified by the EU Commission and the solar industry as a key market to ramp-up renewable electricity production. SolarPower Europe for example suggests mandating solar PV and storage (along with heat pumps) on all new buildings.

This is where EuropeOn members come in. Roughly ¾ of the solar workforce falls into the segment of “installation, operation and maintenance” which heavily relies on our professionals. As relentlessly highlighted by EuropeOn, our sector faces growing vacancies as of now, everywhere in Europe. In Germany only, 82,000 vacancies are currently reported.

In her inaugural speech, Commissioner Kadri Simson explicitly underlined the lack of qualified installers and the risk it poses for solar deployment. This topic is also expected to be addressed in the upcoming “Solar Strategy”.

Julie Beaufils and Adélaïde Charlier debated on the lack of attractiveness of technical careers such as PV installers and electrical integrators. While a growing share of citizens, especially in the younger generation, aspire to pursue meaningful careers and wish to undertake missions with a concrete positive impact on climate change, technical careers in the electro-technical sector remain rarely appealing. It is high time to challenge this disinterest.

The panelists finally invited the audience to have a comprehensive vision of the solar industry. While solar deployment can heavily contribute to decarbonizing our continent, the whole value chain and life-cycle of solar power must work towards sustainability, including circularity and climate justice. In that regard, SolarPower Europe’s plan to accelerate the deployment of an EU manufacturing capacity could greatly contribute to the sustainable agenda.

More information on the Summit on SolarPower Europe’s website.