Solar electricity can contribute largely to the energy needs of two-thirds of the world's population - including those in remote areas - by 2030. This is the main conclusion of the Solar Generation report, published by Greenpeace and the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA).
"Solar photovoltaic electricity has the potential to supply energy to over 4 billion people by 2030 if adequate policy measures are put in place today," said Ernesto Macias, EPIA President, as the report was presented at a major conference on photovoltaic (PV) energy in Spain.
Now in its fifth edition, Solar Generation confirms the impressive growth of the solar energy sector and demonstrates its potential of becoming a global energy contributor. By 2030, it estimates that over 1800 GW of photovoltaic systems will have been installed worldwide. This represents over 2600 TWh of electricity produced per year, or 14% of global electricity demand. This is enough power to supply over 1.3 billion people in developed areas and over 3 billion people in remote rural areas who currently have no access to mains electricity.
"Solar electricity could help cut up to 1.6 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2030, equivalent to the emissions of 450 coal-fired power plants," said Sven Teske, energy expert from Greenpeace International and co-author of the study. "Tackling climate change requires a revolution in the way we produce and use energy â€“ solar is a major part of this solution."
The Solar Generation scenario also shows how solar electricity will contribute towards creating green-collar jobs. Currently, almost 120,000 people are employed in this sector; most of the jobs - involving the installation, maintenance and sale of PV systems - are created locally and boost local economies. In 2020, over 2 million people are expected to be working in the sector. By 2030, employment in the sector could account for almost 10 million people worldwide.
Today, the majority of installed PV systems benefit from well-designed grant support, in particular the feed-in tariff mechanism. This provides fair remuneration to the investor, and rewards the effort made in investing in a clean energy source. Solar energy is becoming more economically viable and should become cost-competitive with conventional energy by 2015 in southern European countries and by 2020 across most of Europe.
The future renewable energy sources Directive at EU level is expected to reinforce the current legal framework and could facilitate the implementation of the feed-in tariff scheme throughout Europe. "The ball is now in the hands of European decision-makers who can take the opportunity this new Directive presents to show Europe's leadership in the development of renewable energy sources," Macias concluded.