Socio-Economic Aspects of the Transition to High PV Contribution
Solar photovoltaics is one of the key technologies in one of the seven flagship areas for investment and reform “Clean Technologies and Renewables”. The massive and rapid deployment of additional renewable energy, and in particular solar energy capacities needed for the energy transition and fostered through the recent political framework will only be possible, however, if a broad public and political support can be maintained when solar energy becomes a visible part of every person’s living environment, both in urban and rural areas.
Since several big societal challenges and trends require (additional) space to be addressed, such as the energy transition moving towards sustainable agriculture, increasing biodiversity, providing sufficient housing, careful balancing of very different and sometime competing societal costs and values is key to success.
Europe should put itself at the forefront of large-scale deployment, ambitious technological devel- opment and advanced manufacturing, sustainability of production, quality and efficiency of solar products and the development of business models that capture PV’s value. These are the fact-based reasons for the high PV scenario (81) that will substantially contribute to the European Green Deal, Climate protection goals and the European recovery and resilience plan.
Socio-economic aspects for the “high PV scenario”
The energy transition offers great benefits and opportunities, but also poses major challenges to society. Success of the transition depends heavily on its capability to demonstrate the benefits for individuals, companies and society as a whole, while addressing and mitigating the challenges effec- tively, in a well-balanced manner. For example, the societal benefit of renewable energy generation, linked with the challenge of visual impact on the living environment, can influence the feeling of well-being of individuals. Another challenge is minimizing generation costs versus optimising ecolog- ical effects of solar parks. Addressing these cases can generally be described as optimising the sum of societal costs (monetary, aesthetic, ecological, etc.) and benefits or values (mitigation of climate change, jobs & income, living comfort, etc.). Since it is often not easy, or even not possible to quanti- fy part of the societal costs & benefits, it is important to understand the underlying drivers and how they depend on actions that can be taken. For instance, under which conditions may people accept or even appreciate solar parks in their living environment? Or: what is the allowable extra cost for an eco-positive solar park? These, and many other questions, require dedicated socio-economic re- search, in addition to the technology development and deployment initiatives.
Socio-economic impacts of the energy transition with high PV scenario should be addressed as joint action for all RES, especially partnering of Solar PV with Wind and Storage - Green Hydrogen and Batteries. New quality jobs creation, both upstream and downstream, technological and energy in- dependences (reducing the dependence on energy imports) should be covered in activities to raise awareness of all the benefits that PV brings, enhancing and ensuring societal acceptance and further strengthening citizen and public engagement and support for the high PV scenario. More generally, comprehensive Societal Cost-Benefit Analyses are needed to find the optimum path of the energy transition with a large share of PV; ‘optimum’ referring to energy, economy, ecology and society.
Europe should put itself at the forefront of large-scale deployment, ambitious technological development and advanced manufacturing, sustainability of production, quality and efficiency of solar products and the development of business models that capture PV’s value.