Solar is likely to become the world’s main source of electricity by 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has announced ahead of a new report.
Assisted by the continuation of rapidly declining costs for solar, the IEA estimates that solar panel (PV) systems could generate up to 16% of the world’s electricity by 2050. Solar thermal electricity could provide an additional 11%; together this would make up a majority.
Solar power has been the worlds’s fastest-growing renewable energy technology since the turn of this century. Although it still only accounts for less than 1% of the world’s electricity capacity, with the exponential growth the solar sector is experiencing, that is expected to change quickly in coming years.
The enormous growth in solar power capacity is expected to be led by China first, and the United States second. China alone is expected to represent about 37% of the world’s installed solar PV capacity by 2050.
The 16% solar PV figure is a big increase on previous IEA roadmaps, “because things have changed so quickly,” said the IEA’s Paolo Frankl. “Based on its competitive advantage in distributed applications, PV is unbeatable by any generation technology, distributed or not,” Frankl added.
The IEA has traditionally been conservative with its renewable energy estimates, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being a lot more than the agency is suggesting. As is the case with other exponential technologies, things are likely to keep changing quickly for the foreseeable future.