Concentrating solar power (CSP) is one of the few renewable power technologies capable of generating dispatchable electricity on demand. As such, it could have a key role to play in the transition of the European power system, both to supply bulk renewable power and to balance fluctuating wind power and solar PV. Despite this, CSP is a non-issue on most European policy agendas.
Although CSP has many geopolitical advantages, including “hard politics” issues like reduced import dependency, it is hardly even known in geopolitical circles. Whereas renewables have entered the energy geopolitical thinking in Europe, CSP and the cooperation mechanisms have not. CSP has become “fossilised” and is judged with the same criteria as fossil fuels, following the same well and pipeline logics, in a competitive setting between countries. This would further hamper the use of the cooperation mechanisms.
CSP has a vital role to play, as it is one of the few, if not the only, dispatchable renewable power technology that can be scaled up in Europe: CSP can thus be used to stabilise the system as the shares of fluctuating renewables increase. As these fluctuations are the by far largest threat to a renewables-based power system, and especially as CSP would not add any further mentionable threats or vulnerabilities, CSP would increase the energy security of the European power system compared to any other climate-neutral configuration without CSP.
This report shows that CSP, both for domestic use and for trade under the cooperation mechanisms, may have an important role to play, in two ways. First, through the jobs triggered directly in the CSP industry, in which Spain remains world-leading. Second, and even more importantly, adding dispatchable CSP to the European power system would allow for higher shares of fluctuating wind power and solar PV – and hence allowing a rapid scale-up of these technologies, which would very likely create new jobs of even larger magnitude than the CSP jobs alone.
Read more about the report here.