As 2021 is coming to an end and we reflect on it, we also look forward to the year 2022, which seems to be bringing a bright sunrise to the solar thermal sector. From positive market prospects, new support schemes, and favourable regulations, to future strategies and ambitions meant to fulfil the potential of solar heat, all come together to motivate a renewed and strong optimism within our sector.
The fact is that the total energy generation capacity of solar thermal has been growing continuously for over four decades, and while 2020 and the COVID pandemic affected the growth trend observed at the end of the previous decade, the market prospects for 2021 and the expectations for the upcoming year are on an ascendant note. This does not mean that there aren’t still relevant challenges to address, including new ones related to the current context, such as raw materials or component supply issues, logistical difficulties related mainly to bottlenecks in the transport sector, or even persistent support to fossil fuels.
A large majority of the European markets, including the largest ones, are expected to grow in 2021 and 2022, some of them with double digits. While it is still too soon to have an accurate prediction in terms of the market statistics for this year, the current projections indicate that 2021 might present the biggest percentual increase in annual sales for the European solar heat sector, since the record year of 2008. The predictions mentioned in this editorial are based on Solar Heat Europe’s market assessment surveys ran within its members’ network, which have been presented and discussed in the workshop we have organised with our members in early December. And we are confident these positive numbers will be confirmed in 2022, in our market statistics report.
Such positive signals for solar heat markets are being complemented by good policy news from different countries across Europe, as new support schemes and regulations are being announced in connection with EU’s climate ambitions, such as new European directives and national strategies meant to contribute to the common goals of reducing GHG emissions and build a more sustainable society within the framework of the EU Green Deal and the Fit for 55% Package. An example of this is France, which has experienced the impact in the market of a new support programme for solar thermal in the residential sector, adding to other previous initiatives addressing large scale solar thermal systems. Or Greece, which benefits from new measures introduced in 2021 and expects, in addition, a new programme in 2022 supporting energy saving for renovation of public buildings and businesses, that shall also give a relevant push on solar thermal sales. Or even Austria, where subsidy schemes addressing Solar Heat for Industrial Processes are creating a new dynamic in the market. And we could add several other examples to this list.
The combined effect of financing mechanisms and new policies are also driving more attention from industrial sectors and district heating operators towards renewable energy solutions, an interest which falls in line with our sector’s efforts to increase deployment of large-scale solar heat applications that produce clean heat and as such relieve the burden placed on our environment when it comes to energy production.
While we are witnessing positive developments in the market and in national policies, there are even more ambitious proposals planned for 2022, some of them coming directly from Solar Heat Europe, in the current discussions and consultations for new regulations. From an increased EU renewables target to a broad renovation wave including solar thermal, in 2022 the association plans to continue building on past achievements and join efforts with all actors in the sector to create a better context for renewable heating & cooling and solar heat.
Next year, Solar Heat Europe will also celebrate its 30 years anniversary, marking an important milestone for the whole European solar thermal sector. To mark this important event, we plan to commemorate past achievements, but more importantly, to project our future, looking at the next 30 years and how the sector can play a key role in the energy transition, lowering emissions, and finally, contributing to a net-zero reality by 2050. This celebration aims to bring together the entire sector, so stay tuned, we will be reaching out!
I wish you all have the opportunity to celebrate together with your families and friends later this month. And, in addition, I wish you will join our sector’s celebration in 2022, celebrating our past and our future!
Sunny thoughts and great holidays,