BRUSSELS The 4th edition of the European Solar Days campaign has drawn massive support for solar energy throughout the entire continent. Over the course of two weeks (1-15 May 2011) more than 8,000 events were organized in 18 countries throughout Europe, attracting half a million people in an attempt to demonstrate that solar energy constitutes a viable alternative energy source.

In Brussels, the European Solar Days were marked by a panel debate on solar energy’s contribution to Europe’s energy independence and security of supply. While Mariusz Kawnik - Energy Attaché in the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Poland to the EU – confirmed that progress in the area of renewable energy remains one of the key issues in the agenda of the forthcoming Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), Paolo Frankl – Head of the IEA Renewable Energy Division – stressed that a further push to efficiently deploy solar technology would considerably help the European Union reach its 20/20/20 energy targets.

Louis Palmer’s solar taxi test-drive was another highlight of the Brussels event. Global environmental adventurer, Louis Palmer is the first man to have completed a global tour in his solar-powered car. Palmer said: “It gave me real pleasure to see genuine interest in embracing solar-powered technologies, such as the solar taxi. Energy independence remains one of the major challenges of our times, yet my experience demonstrates that it only takes sheer conviction to implement the solar energy solution.”

“Embracing solar as a viable energy alternative remains key to building a sustainable Europe and achieving the EU’s climate targets” said Reinhold Buttgereit, Secretary General of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA). “Today, it is even more evident that the EU needs to increase its share of renewables. We need to reassess our energy choices immediately or else we risk jeopardizing Europe’s future energy independence and security of supply” added Xavier Noyon, Secretary General of the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF).

“The technology exists and, as the Solar Days campaign shows, consumers increasingly understand the benefits. But without the wholehearted support of policy-makers we will still face challenges in increasing solar energy’s share in the EU energy mix’’ the two representatives concluded.

In the context of the EU’s pledge to increase the share of renewables in its overall energy mix, solar energy can contribute in an essential way towards reaching this ambitious goal. Capitalizing on its characteristics – free, clean and, above all, infinite energy source – solar can ensure energy independence at local, regional and individual levels. Recent research reveals that solar thermal can meet up to 3.6% of the low temperature demand in the EU and solar photovoltaic electricity could account for up to 12% of the EU’s electricity demand by 2020 assuming that the right political framework is in place.