Photovoltaic panels will account for 20 percent of global energy by 2050

WWF and the European Photovoltaic Industry association have both released separate reports highlighting the key role photovoltaic solar technology will play in the move towards 100 percent renewable energy.

A joint report released by EPIA and Greenpeace yesterday highlighted the doubling of investment in production, expected to rise from $47.7 billion to $95.3 billion by 2015.

According to the EPIA, this will mean that PV panels will account for nine percent of global energy demand by 2030, and 20 percent by 2050.

In Europe alone investment is expected to rise by approximately $13.3 billion by 2015, with PV providing 12 percent of energy demand by 2020.

Sven Teske, senior energy expert at Greenpeace, highlighted the need for the technology to become mainstream.

“Our goal is to make solar photovoltaic technology a mainstream power source through policy support at an optimal cost for consumers,” he said.

“Solar photovoltaic is a key technology for combating climate change; our research shows that it creates 35 to 50 jobs per tonne of CO2 savings and will increase the security of energy supply by reducing dependency on energy imports to Europe.”

According to the EPIA, PV is on the brink of an economic breakthrough following years of improvements to power efficiency and cost reductions being driven by economy of scale.

The report, which you can find here, estimates that, with 36GW of capacity seen in 2010, predictions are being made for 180GW of global PV capacity in 2015, and even 350GW by 2020.

Prices for PV have dropped by 40 percent since 2005, and are expected to fall by the same amount by 2015 as mass production continues.  The number of individual units now being used total two million across the world.

With this in mind it is expected that grid parity will be reached with electricity prices within just a few years, with Italy on the brink of seeing such price equality.

“We see the use of solar energy as the biggest contributor to renewable energy, and it is clear that the technology is at a point where it almost ready to provide a cost effective alternative to other forms of energy,” Jean-Philippe Denruyter, Manager of Global Renewable Energy Policy at WWF agreed, talking to TechEye.

“For example in Italy they are only one or two years away from reaching grid parity, with the rest of Europe potentially providing a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels in the coming years as the mass production of PV panels continues to make panels more affordable.”

“However much of this depends on whether subsidies are removed on fossil fuels and the cost of PV panels reducing over the coming years.”

Aside from the environmental benefits of the proliferation of PV, the report also argues that the European PV industry could increase employment from over 300,000 to provide 600,000 jobs by 2015, and 1.6 million by 2020 if there is adequate governmental support.

Overall the Solar Generation 6 Report shows that by 2020 the EU target of 20 percent emission reduction could easily be pushed to 30 percent.

According to WWF, which today released its own Energy Report, it has eyed 2050 as a target for reaching 100 percent renewable energy usage, which would cause an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions.

The report looks at how the financial aspects of the move to renewable energy also provide incentives with a predicted global saving of $5.4 trillion by 2050 with reducing energy costs, even without accounting avoided costs associated with climate change, or the additional benefits of renewable energy such as improved health, and increases in green jobs.

“Right now, we need the UK government to encourage substantial upfront investments and ambitious energy savings,” the report states. “The current reform of the electricity market is the perfect chance to deliver a nearly carbon-free power sector and strongly promote sustainable low-carbon technologies.”

Denruyter explained to TechEye that in order to meet the WWF renewable energy target, PV would play an absolutely vital role.

“The use of photovoltaic is the key element in our scenario of one hundred percent renewable energy,” he said.

“PV is one of the most widely available sources of renewable energy due it being perhaps the easiest to implement on a large or small scale almost anywhere in the world.”

“Some countries have very good policies in place for the implementation of solar panels, obviously Germany has a great record, and China is also greatly improving which is positive as it means more competition in the market.”

“But if we are to see growth in the PV industry continue as it has done but over a much longer time period of time of decades then it is absolutely vital that governments continue to support implementation rather than continuing to give money to support the use of fossil fuels.”

The WWF report can be found here.