Sian Crampsie

2014 was another record year for solar energy, according to SolarPower Europe.

The trade association – formerly known as the European Photovoltaic Association (EPIA) – says that 40 GW of solar power capacity was added to the grid around the world last year, more than in 2013.

Global cumulative solar energy capacity now stands at 178 GW, it said in its flagship market report, Global Market Outlook for Solar Power 2015-2019.

China, Japan and the USA led the world’s solar market in 2014, while Europe installed 7 GW. The UK led the way in Europe, contributing 2.3 GW in 2014. "The success of the UK, set to be the largest European market again in 2015, reinforces the evidence that solar power is a versatile and cost-efficient energy source in any climate," said James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe. "Solar power could grow by 80 per cent in Europe by 2020."

Overall, SolarPower Europe believes that cumulative solar capacity could reach 540 GW by 2020 in a high-growth scenario. In three European markets – Germany, Italy and Greece – solar covers more than seven per cent of electricity demand.

"If today’s global solar momentum continues, and being supported by the right frameworks, we could see over half a Terrawatt (TW) of solar power capacity installed by 2020," said Michael Schmela, SolarPower Europe’s Executive Advisor.

SolarPower Europe believes that 2014 marks a tipping point in the make-up of the energy market. "For the first time ever in Europe, renewables produced more power than nuclear – and solar power was key in achieving this remarkable achievement," said Schmela. "Being now one of the lowest-cost power sources, solar needs the right market design so that it can continue to contribute its strong support for Europe to reach its clean energy targets."