By 2050, solar energy could become the world's largest source of electricity, accounting for 27% of total world power generation, according to the International Energy Agency's (IEA) technology roadmap studies on solar photovoltaic (PV) energy and solar thermal electricity (STE).
The two publications present the IEA's view on the required level of deployment in a scenario of low supply from other clean technologies and ambitious mitigation action.
29 September 2014: By 2050, solar energy could become the world’s largest source of electricity, accounting for 27% of total world power generation, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) technology roadmap studies on solar photovoltaic (PV) energy and solar thermal electricity (STE). The two publications present the IEA’s views on the required level of deployment in a scenario of ambitious mitigation action and low supply from other clean technologies.
Titled ‘Technology Roadmap: Solar Photovoltaic Energy – 2014 Edition’ and ‘Technology Roadmap: Solar Thermal Electricity – 2014 Edition,’ the publications come as updates to the Agency’s first solar roadmaps, published in 2010, and are based on energy scenarios from the IEA ‘Energy Technology Perspectives 2014.’ Both were launched during a webinar held on 29 September 2014.
Speaking at the launch event, Maria van der Hoeven, IEA Executive Director, underlines that, in order to stay below the 2°C limit, the share of renewables must increase to 65-80% of global electricity production. She also explained that, in a 2°C warming scenario, the additional cumulative investment required for a clean energy system, US$44 trillion by 2050, represents a small portion of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and is offset by more than US$115 trillion in fuel savings. She also underscored the need for “clear, credible and consistent signals for policymakers” for improving investor confidence in solar technologies.
According to van de Hoeven, the goal of 200 GW of cumulative global capacity by 2020 set in the Agency’s 2010 PV roadmap study will be reached in 2015, driven by technology cost reductions, a shift towards global deployment, and the increasing role of distributed PV. However, the goal for STE of 140 GW by 2020 is likely to be reached only in 2025-2030, with deployment slowed down by competition with PV and US shale gas, and the lack of market recognition of the flexibility of thermal storage. After 2030, however the IEA expects this dynamic to reverse, with STE deployment taking off.
The STE “roadmap action plan” identifies three priority actions required for reaching an 11% share of global electricity generation by 2050, namely: government-set targets for concentrated solar power (CSP) and stable regulatory and market frameworks; improved technology and reduction of technology costs by industry; and research and development (R&D) efforts by industry and research institutions commensurate with the technologies’ potential role in a climate-friendly energy future.
The PV roadmap sets a vision of 4,600 GW of installed PV capacity, generating 16% global electricity, by 2050, and recommends: government-set targets and stable financing environments; reduction of PV costs by industry; and development of power systems by power system actors for the deployment of variable PV generation. [IEA Press Release] [IEA Speech Transcript] [IEA Presentation] [Publication: Technology Roadmap: Solar Photovoltaic Energy – 2014 Edition] [Publication: Technology Roadmap: Solar Thermal Electricity – 2014 Edition] [IISD RS Story on IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2014]