Why the EU supports solar energy research and innovation
Solar energy is energy derived from the sun. It can be used to produce electricity or heat.
Solar power already provides an important contribution to the European energy mix, with 3.6% of EU-28 gross electricity generation in 2017 (source: Eurostat).
Based on current market trends, BloombergNEF estimates that solar has the potential to meet 20% of the EU electricity demand in 2040.
For solar to become an even more important source of clean energy in Europe, generation costs need to be lowered and the efficiency of converting sunlight to energy improved.
Research and innovation focuses on photovoltaics, concentrated solar power and solar heating and cooling.
This technology converts sunlight directly into electricity by exploiting the photovoltaic effect -creating voltage or electrical current by exposure to light. Solar panel cells are an example of this process.
What the EU is doing
The EU funds research aiming to find new materials, better design photovoltaic cells to make more efficient solar panels and lower the cost of generating electricity.
Concentrated Solar Power
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants use mirrors to concentrate the sun's energy to drive steam turbines that create electricity.
Because CSP incorporates in-built thermal energy storage, electricity can be produced on demand.
CSP is particularly suitable for semi-arid areas with rich direct solar irradiation and it constitutes an export sector for EU industry.
The cost of CSP needs to decrease to make this technology competitive. Not only technological advances, but also non-technological factors such as economies of scale, will help lower costs.
What the EU is doing
To support the development of CSP systems, the EU funds research projects aiming to identify more efficient cycles and components.
The EU also helps make the technology less risky by supporting the demonstration of large installations and contributing to financing first-of-a-kind plants.
Solar heating and cooling
Solar energy can also be used for heating and/or cooling. Solar thermal collectors are used mainly for producing domestic hot water in residential buildings, but also in industrial applications.
The challenge is to integrate solar-driven technologies into buildings' heating or cooling systems. Another important factor is the economic analysis - the viability of Solar Heating and Cooling (SHC) is strongly shaped by local conditions and the local fuel price of the conventional system that SHC would be replacing.
In terms of solar resource, SHC can be deployed in most regions of Europe.
What the EU is doing
EU research and innovation supports developing reliable, economically viable solar-driven solutions for the production of domestic hot water, district heating and industrial or commercial applications.
Calls for proposal on energy related themes in Horizon Europe and information on the work programme.
Funding for innovative low-carbon technology research with focus on environmentally safe Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and innovative renewable energy technologies
Energy research related calls may be found in these funds
The LIFE Programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action.
The European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) is the successor organisation of the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA).
Prize awarding €5 million to the best solution demonstrating the use of sunlight to produce a sustainable fuel ready for use in housing, transport or industry
Prize rewarding achievements in local renewable energy production for electricity, heating, cooling and transport on islands.
Projects and results
The Commission's primary portal for EU-funded research projects and their results
Stories of particularly successful EU-funded projects
Latest news, interviews and features about thought-provoking science and innovative research projects funded by the EU.
Platform where framework programme participants present their results for you to search, contact their owners, and form partnerships.
Thematic collections of innovative EU-funded research results in the energy field
Access to real-time programme data with the ability to filter by country, region, theme and more
Collaboration and jobs
Find partners for open EU calls for proposal
Collaborate in energy research and innovation public-private partnerships
International cooperation between the EU and global stakeholders in energy
Researcher jobs in related fields
Scientific publications, tools and databases
SET-Plan implementation progress reports giving data by priority area, country and energy source
Scientific energy research publications published by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC)
The Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) compiles databases and develops software and modelling tools. You can access energy research related ones here
Online library of EU energy research publications
Single point of access to open data produced by the EU institutions - all data free to use for commercial and non-commercial purposes