A resurgence in solar power is accelerating the growth of global supplies of renewable electricity. The International Energy Agency (IEA) found that solar, wind and hydropower projects are advancing at their fastest rate in 4 years. This growth is faster than expected and the IEA believes that global renewable power capacity is set to expand with the installation of solar PV systems on homes, commercial buildings and industrial facilities. This is having the effect of revolutionising the way electricity is consumed.
The IEA’s latest forecast finds that the world’s total renewable-based power capacity will increase by 50% in the next 5 years. This expansion is being driven by cost reductions and concerted government policy efforts.
The IEA in its latest report has predicted that there could be a new dawn for cheap solar power by 2024 which sees the world’s solar capacity grow by 600GW. This number is almost double the installed total electricity capacity of Japan. Overall electricity is expected to grow by 1,200GW in the next 5 years which is the total electricity of the US.
The number of home solar panels is anticipated to more than double and to reach 100m rooftops by 2024 with the strongest per capita growth in Australia, Belgium, California, the Netherlands and Austria.
IEA’s executive director, Dr Fatih Birol said:
“This is a pivotal time for renewable energy. Technologies such as solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind are at the heart of transformations taking place across the global energy system. Their increasing deployment is crucial for efforts to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, reduce air pollution, and expand energy access.”
The IEA believe that distributed PV accounts for almost half of the growth in the overall solar market through 2024. Commercial and industrial applications will make up three-quarters of new installations over the next five years. The number of solar rooftop systems on homes is set to more than double by some 100 million by 2024.
Dr Fatih Birol said:
“Renewables are already the world’s second largest source of electricity, but their deployment still needs to accelerate if we are to achieve long-term climate, air quality and energy access goals.”
Earlier this month the Guardian reported that a renewable energy revolution could bring an end to global increased demand for oil and coal in the 2020s, decades earlier than oil and mining companies have forecast.
Currently 26% of the world’s electricity is sourced from renewable energy but according to the IEA its share is expected to reach 30% by 2024. The world is experiencing a resurgence in renewable energy after a slowdown last year, due to falling technology costs and growing environmental concerns.
IEA’s report advises that to ensure this growth is sustainable, important policy and tariff reforms must be implemented. They believe that unmanaged growth could disrupt electricity markets by raising system costs, challenging the grid integration of renewables and diminishing the revenues of network operators.
Dr Birol warned that although the potential for solar power was “breathtaking” the rapid rollout could disrupt electricity markets unless regulators and utilities adapt.
Dr Birol said:
“Distributed PV’s potential is breathtaking, but its development needs to be well managed to balance the different interests of PV system owners, other consumers and energy and distribution companies. The IEA is ready to advise governments on what is needed to take full advantage of this rapidly emerging technology without jeopardising electricity security.”
However, Dr Birol has cautioned that the role of renewables in the global energy system would need to be accelerated if the world hopes to meet its climate targets.
The biggest role in driving the IEAs forecasts higher is played by the growing climate ambitions in the European Union and the US though it will be China which paves the way in rolling out wind and solar energy projects.
Because falling costs are already below retail electricity prices in most countries the IEA expects solar energy to play the biggest role in accelerating fresh growth in renewable energy.
Further growth is likely to be spurred on by the cost of solar power which is expected to decline by a further 15% to 35% by 2024.
In the UK, the National Grid revealed that in 2019 the greater part of Britain’s electricity will come from zero carbon energy sources rather than fossil fuels.
For the UK to reach its target of net zero emissions by 2050 and demonstrate leadership in addressing a global challenge, the move to clean energy will be essential.
The biggest driver of the solar power boom is expected to be the appetite of energy hungry businesses and factories as company bosses exploit falling costs to help cut their energy bills.
Despite the spectacular growth expected for solar over the next 5 years solar panels will still only cover 6% of the world’s available rooftops, leaving room for further growth.
Find out more about solar here.