Solar May Become Largest Global Power Source by 2050

Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) — Solar power might become the
world’s largest source of electricity by 2050 as falling costs
boost installations, according to the International Energy
Agency.

Photovoltaic plants may provide as much as 16 percent of
global electricity, and concentrating solar facilities could
generate another 11 percent, the IEA said in an e-mailed
statement today. The Paris-based organization details what is
required to reach these figures in two scenarios it sets out to
reach the goal.

“The rapid cost decrease of photovoltaic modules and
systems in the last few years has opened new perspectives for
using solar energy as a major source of electricity,” Executive
Director Maria van der Hoeven said.

The technologies are expensive to develop, so lowering the
cost of capital is of primary importance to achieve this vision,
she said.

The IEA is the latest organization to suggest the potential
of renewable energy, particular solar, to transform the global
power system. Solar power will take a bigger share of the energy
market shake up the industry by 2030, with panels reaching a 6
percent share of electricity from 0.3 percent now, Bloomberg New
Energy Finance forecasts. Solar plants and batteries will be
disruptive technologies for the power system, UBS AG said last
month.

Photovoltaic installations have grown much faster than the
agency expected when it released its first outlook for solar in
2010, when it saw them covering 11 percent of global power by
2050. More solar capacity has been added since 2010 than in the
previous four decades, the IEA said.

Gigawatts of Power

In the scenario with the highest clean-energy deployment,
the IEA sees 4,600 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity in 2050
from about 150 gigawatts now. That would involve annual
investments more than doubling to an average of $225 billion.

For concentrating solar, which involves mirrors that heat
steam to generate electricity, the agency reiterated its vision
for about 1,000 gigawatts by 2050 from about 4 gigawatts now. It
sees both technologies as complementary.

This explosive growth in solar installations will be driven
by further price drops. The cost of electricity from
photovoltaic projects will fall by an average 25 percent by
2020, 45 percent by 2030 and 65 percent by 2050, the IEA said.
This implies a levelized cost of power of as little as $56 a
megawatt-hour for large plants and $78 on rooftops.

Appropriate regulatory frameworks with well-designed
electricity markets will be critical to achieve this potential,
according to the adviser to 29 nations.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Marc Roca in London at
mroca6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at
landberg@bloomberg.net
Randall Hackley

About BloombergNEF

BloombergNEF (BNEF), Bloomberg’s primary research service, covers clean energy, advanced transport, digital industry, innovative materials and commodities. We help corporate strategy, finance and policy professionals navigate change and generate opportunities.

Available online, on mobile and on the Terminal, BNEF is powered by Bloomberg’s global network of 19,000 employees in 176 locations, reporting 5,000 news stories a day.
 
Sign up for our free weekly newsletter →

Want to learn how we help our clients put it all together? Contact us