Since 1 May 2011, the European Solar Days (ESD) have engulfed the entire continent, aiming to promote the advantages of properly harnessing the sun's energy. Within two weeks, more than 5,000 events take place across 17 countries all around Europe. The campaign will conclude with a panel debate in Brussels on 26 May, which will try to tackle the critical question of how solar energy can contribute to Europe’s energy independence and security of supply.
The 4th edition of the Europe-wide campaign is organised by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), together with the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) and a network of some 25 affiliated organisations, including NGOs, businesses and local governments. The European Solar Days project is additionally supported by the European Commission's Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) programme.
The campaign promotes the use of solar energy for the generation of electricity, heat and cold. It was first launched at a national level in Austria in 2002 as the “Day of the Sun”. The idea was then taken up by Switzerland in 2004, and subsequently, by Germany in 2006. In May 2008, 13 European countries celebrated the first European Solar Days, all in all hosting more than 4,000 different events. The ESD has gradually become a joint effort of thousands of local event organisers across all cooperating nations - from solar equipment manufacturers to schools and local authorities. In 2010, over half a million citizens from 17 countries attended around 6,600 events in Austria, Belgium, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and The Netherlands.
“The potential of solar energy remains essential in reaching Europe’s climate targets. Because solar energy can be produced where it is needed, it ensures energy independence at local, regional and individual levels,” ESTIF and EPIA stated in a collective press release in reference to the Solar Days. The European Union (EU) has pledged to increase the share of renewable energies in the overall energy mix to 20% by 2020. According to the organisers, solar energy could make an important contribution to reaching this target. Provided that framework conditions are met, solar electricity could account for up to 12% of the EU's electricity supply by 2020. In addition, solar thermal could meet up to 3.6% of the EU's low temperature demand.
“Both solar photovoltaics and solar thermal energy have a key role here, as these technologies are rapidly progressing, bringing along advanced, reliable and low-maintenance systems,” Eleni Despotou, Chairwoman of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), says. “Capitalising on the solar energy potential will also create thousands of new jobs. In addition, solar thermal and photovoltaic energy do not produce polluting gases or detrimental emissions,” Xavier Noyon, Secretary General of the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF), adds. “The sun can provide a solution to every one of the issues which comes up as part of the current energy challenge: sustainability, security of supply and independence”, Despotou and Noyon conclude.
This text was written by Stephanie Banse, a German journalist specialised on solar thermal technology. (firstname.lastname@example.org)