IRENA Report: PV energy could account for up to 13% of global power needs by 2030

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IRENA estimates that solar PV capacity could grow to anywhere between 1760 and 2500GW by 2030 — up from 227GW today. Image: IRENA

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released a new report on Wednesday at InterSolar Europe that sheds light on the potential of solar energy in the global power market.

According to the report, Letting in the Light: How Solar Photovoltaics Will Revolutionize the Electricity System, the share of global electricity produced by PV sources could increase from 2% today to as much as 13% by 2030. IRENA estimates that solar PV capacity could grow to anywhere between 1760 and 2500GW by 2030 — up from 227GW today.

IRENA director-general Adnan Z. Amin noted: “Recent analysis from IRENA finds that cost reductions for solar and wind will continue into the future, with further declines of up to 59% possible for solar PV in the next ten years. This comprehensive overview of the solar industry finds that these cost reductions, in combination with other enabling factors, can create a dramatic expansion of solar power globally. The renewable energy transition is well underway, with solar playing a central role.”

Per the report, solar PV is the most widely owned electricity source in the world in terms of number of installations, and its growth is accelerating — as it accounted for 20% of all new power generation capacity in 2015. Over the last five years, global installed capacity has grown from 40GW to 227GW.

Solar PV generation has already cut CO2 emissions by up to 300 million tonnes annually. This total could increase to up to three gigatonnes of CO2 per year in 2030. PV also accounts for more than half of all investment in the renewable energy sector.

Amin added: “World electricity demand is expected to grow by more than 50% by 2030, mostly in developing and emerging economies. To meet this demand while also realising global development and sustainability goals, governments must implement policies that enable solar to achieve its full potential.”

Reaching a 13% share of global electricity by 2030 will require average annual capacity additions to double for the next 14 years. The report makes note of five recommendations that can boost these totals — updated policies based on the latest innovations; government support of continued research and development activities; creation of a global standards framework; market structure changes; and the adoption of enabling technologies like smart grids and storage.

PV continues to exhibit impressive growth in a number of markets, as SolarPower Europe noted on Tuesday that global solar installations are set to surpass 60GW in 2016 — up from 50.6GW deployed last year. 

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