Sustainability Goals
25 September 2023

Teamwork makes the solar dream work

How can more meaningful collaboration accelerate the Energy Transition and kickstart Europe’s green economy.

There is no question that we must significantly accelerate the development and deployment of green technology. In Europe in particular, the pressure is on to reach previously stated climate goals, and in general, the current pace is not promising.

Thankfully, it is also quite clear that there are a number of opportunities laid out that could fundamentally transform Europe’s renewable energy systems. To add to that, a number of those opportunities would likely turn out to drive considerable value to all parties involved. For some of these, such as a better utilization of rooftop space – the most obvious barrier is nothing more than a damaging false narrative that that has swung public perception.

Getting stakeholders on the same page

Although Europe’s housing stock presents a considerable opportunity, its well established industries are the low hanging fruit that could kickstart a more holistic shift. In fact, there has never been a more obvious time to begin to ramp up the C&I rooftop harvest. A winter plagued by energy price uncertainty has left an indelible mark on the continent. Many of Europe’s established industrial players are at risk of simply no longer being able to compete when energy prices are where they are – thankfully there is immense untapped potential lying in the empty roof space of these companies.

The challenge ahead lies in fostering an environment where governments, corporates and European solar developers can all benefit from the further rollout of C&I rooftop solar on the continent. Thankfully, existing projects have shown great success – it’s the scaling of that success that will unlock the true value for all parties.

It would appear the aforementioned scaling may already be underway - investment in European solar start-ups has surged 414% year-on-year in the first half of 2023, totaling $6.5 billion. To add even more writing to the wall, solar is set to attract more capital than oil production for the first time in 2023.

One reason to be particularly optimistic, lies in how this capital can be utilized by Europe’s solar startups. For one, further developing technologies and offerings will be crucial to establishing long term relationships with Europe’s long established industrial sector. This, paired with a realization that self-consumption can offer more cost certainty in an uncertain economy, should provide ample reason for apprehensive holdouts to look into rooftop PV.

What role should regulation play?

Well for one, businesses should be incentivized to green their operations – laws such as the Net Zero Industry Act are already pushing in this direction, but more is needed. Where the NZIA is lacking is in direct financial support and transparency regarding long term benefits that can be afforded to both sides.

With that in mind, the short answer is: a bigger one. 

With the significant increase in investments in European solar startups this past year, paired with the clear price anxiety felt across industries around the continent, the uptick in installations should be far higher than we are seeing today. A great place for Europe to start making improvements would be in simplifying the permitting process around building new rooftop plants.

Long, drawn out permitting processes have long been a thorn in the solar industry’s side, and it is not surprising that many SME’s in particular would opt to avoid the situation completely, especially when they may not have the in house expertise to navigate such a process. Taking better steps to make this process as easy as possible could prove to have an outsized impact when combined with the momentum the industry has at the moment.

Then the real rollout can begin

Once there are a few key developments, the pieces should be in place for a much more rapid rollout of rooftop PV. Start-ups fine tuning their tech and offerings with the influx of investments will allow them to gain trust and recognition in the industry. As more successful case studies exist, more traditional industrial players will come on board, especially if permitting processes also improve.  Finally, as more partnerships are established, Europe’s energy system of the future can begin to grow and develop with all parties on board.

There is also the often overlooked benefits that will come from both an increase in data, as well as developments in machine learning to better leverage it across many aspects of PV. As much as it feels like we are in the middle of solar’s big rollout, the table is not even set for what’s to come.

In the end, it is absolutely crucial that Europe’s industries, along with governments and innovative start-ups, begin to find a way to grow together, and weather the growing economic uncertainty that lies ahead. Rooftop solar is well positioned to play a massive role in this growth. We should be doing all we can to help build bridges to better connect the leaders of this industry with the corporates and governments they can help in the years ahead. 

By embracing multi-stakeholder collaboration, we can push the boundaries of innovation, foster sustainable business practices, and better utilize resources like Europe’s empty rooftop spaces for a more sustainable future.
nd biking in summer. 

Joanna Viileinen,
Head of Marketing and Communication