The road from Lima to Paris: Lit up by solar power

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Optimism is growing that the Paris COP 21 meeting set for November and December 2015 could lead to an international agreement to limit CO2 emissions. This would be a welcome outcome for all of us and particularly those of us active in the European solar power sector. The signals from the Lima COP 20 are indeed positive with a clear and organised pathway to Paris, so that much of the negotiation can already be mapped out ahead of the crucial COP 21.

In EPIA we have been fully engaged in the UN climate process, we had speakers at COP 20 in Lima and held a joint press conference with our colleagues in the Global Wind Energy Council. We are hoping for a binding agreement in Paris. This is because the process is crucial for the development of our industry not just in Europe, but globally. The need for an agreement is clear, not just to reduce carbon emissions, but to fuel the much needed energy transition which will in turn boost jobs and investment in clean technologies like solar power.

A global agreement in Paris will provide a boost to the solar sector. In Europe we saw just 8GW of solar power installed in 2014. In EPIA our forecasts suggest that with a positive regulatory environment there could be as much as 13GW installed in 2016. So there is much economic growth and development at stake in Paris. An agreement at COP 21 can stimulate the right policy environment in Europe to set the course for precisely that type of growth in the solar sector.

The connection between international climate agreements and regional/national legislation is clear. For years now many economic sectors in Europe have spoken out strongly against European regulations aimed at curtailing carbon emissions, claiming that such action would put them at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the world where such regulations might not exist. These sectors' representatives said that only with a global agreement should there be any legislation to reduce carbon emissions in Europe. This is the opportunity of Paris, as it can once and for all take the wind from the sails of those who seek to slow down action on carbon emission reduction.

For the European solar sector that would be a big win, solar power will be instrumental in meeting the power needs of the population. No other energy has the untapped potential to power so many people’s homes. Right now solar power accounts for just 3.3% of final electricity consumption in Europe, but with a more positive approach to decarbonisation this can grow hugely and the IEA predict that solar will be the world’s largest source of electricity in 2050. With a global agreement in Paris this energy transition can be accelerated.

EPIA will continue its activities to support the parties negotiating the climate deal and will take a leading role in representing the solar sector’s needs to the negotiating teams. As one of the only solar organisations active in these international negotiations, EPIA will reiterate its message that solar is crucial to decarbonising the power sector and can power the world with clean and affordable energy. We’re looking forward to successful negotiations and a new impetus in the global energy transition starting in 2016.

Watson says a positive outcome in Paris would be a big win for the solar industry. Source: Flickr/Greensefa.
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