Under its REmap case, IRENA sees global solar PV capacity reaching 2,840 GW by 2030 and 8,519 GW by 2050, as Asia continues to lead from the front. Several other regions are also expected to move ahead in installing the technology. IRENA has now released its new report called Future of Solar Photovoltaic that figures out options that can speed up the deployment of solar PV across the globe to fully unlock its potential through to 2050. (Source: IRENA)
- IRENA’s report on future of solar PV technology sees its potential to speed up the world’s efforts in achieving goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement
- Utility scale installations will account for 60% of global deployments by 2050 as rooftop solar takes up remaining 40%
- Average annual solar PV investment can be increased 68% $192 billion a year from now till 2050 to accelerate the deployment of this technology
- To accommodate solar power capacity which will account for 25% of global electricity by 2050, average annual investments in grids, generation adequacy and some flexibility measures (storage) would need to rise by more than one-quarter to $374 billionper year, compared to investments made in electricity networks and battery storage in 2018 ($297 billion per year)
- Harmonising policies at various levels with those related to solar PV deployment a must for the technology to really make an impact
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Come 2050 and the world looks well positioned to have 8,519 GW of solar power capacity as all parts of the world wake up to the various benefits of this renewable resource, said the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in its April 2019 Global Energy Transformation Report under its REmap scenario (see IRENA Expects 8500 GW Solar Capacity By 2050).
Following up on that, IRENA has now released its new report called Future of Solar Photovoltaic that figures out options that can speed up the deployment of solar PV across the globe to fully unlock its potential through to 2050 and help to achieve the goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.
The report recommends targeting a threefold rise in annual solar PV capacity additions to reach 2,480 GW by 2030 and 8,519 GW in 2050 in the REmap case. Utility scale installations are expected to account for around 60% of the total in 2050 and distributed solar (read rooftop) will add up the remaining 40% for the technology to contribute to the transformation of the global electricity sector.
In 2050, Asia is expected to continue to lead the world with the largest PV capacity of 4,837 GW driven by China that looks set to account for 2,803 GW of the total. The second largest region will be North America with 1,728 GW led by the US, followed by Europe with 891 GW where Germany would be the largest market representing over 22% of all installations at around 200 GW.
Growth will also be seen in other markets such as Latin America and the Caribbean, which are anticipated to increase its solar PV capacity from 7 GW now to over 280 GW by 2050. The Middle East and Africa region would boast around 673 GW capacity, while Oceania is expected to reach 109 GW in total.
Solar PV, under IRENA’s REmap analysis, is expected to be the second-largest power generation source by mid century, generating 25% of the total electricity needs globally. Accelerated deployment of this technology would represent 21% of the total emission mitigation potential in the energy sector.
In 2018, solar PV investment was around $114 billion, which IRENA suggests could be increased 68% to $192 billion in average yearly investment from now till 2050. As Asia is expected to have most PV capacity, it would need $113 billion annually as its share of global investment in scaling up solar as China and India account for close to 57% and 18% of the total annual investment, respectively.
The good news is: increasing economies of scale and technological improvements will continue to drive down total installation cost of solar PV projects with average system cost expected to drop down to a range of $340 to $834 per kW by 2030 and $165 to $481 per kW by 2050, down from a $1,210 per kW average in 2018.
Noting that levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for solar having already become competitive vis-à-vis fossil fuel generation, the IRENA report expects it to range between $0.02 per kWh to $0.08 per kWh by 2030 and between $0.014 per kWh to $0.05 per kWh by 2050, down from an average of $0.085 per kWh in 2018.
“Globally, to integrate 60% variable renewable generation (of which 25% from solar PV) by 2050, average annual investments in grids, generation adequacy and some flexibility measures (storage) would need to rise by more than one-quarter to $374 billion per year, compared to investments made in electricity networks and battery storage in 2018 ($297 billion per year),” points out the report.
While the report does not specify which PV technologies are expected to dominate the market going forward, it does hail the consistent efforts of the industry to stimulate the market with promising technological breakthroughs as with perovskite, tandem, bifacial and even building integrated PV (BIPV). The authors of the report caution that the industry needs to work on preventing panel degradation and manage the volume of decommissioned PV panels to circular economy practices in the future.
The technology will also be a significant employment generator employing 14 million people. Even policies that build upon domestic supply chains will generate employment locally. But the report suggests harmonising deployment policies with integration and enabling policies, not to forget education and skill policies to help educate the needed workforce.
The Future of Solar Photovoltaic report is available online for download on IRENA’s website.