IRENA Highlights Rapid Growth Of Solar

Solar PV is slated to be the fastest-growing renewable energy resource in terms of capacity and output, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The organization’s REthinking Energy report, now in its third edition, says solar PV will account for as much as 7% of global power generation by 2030 – a six-fold increase from today. Furthermore, IRENA estimates that the levelized cost of electricity for utility-scale PV could fall by more than half between 2015 and 2025 and that global solar PV capacity could reach 1,760 GW by 2030.

The comprehensive report covers several clean energy resources, and its says technological advances and falling costs are driving the adoption of renewable energy around the world. The report states no technology shows this more clearly than solar PV: Global PV capacity soared from 40 GW in 2010 to 219 GW in 2015, when it accounted for approximately 20% of all newly installed power generation capacity, according to the report.

“Renewables are gaining ground by nearly every measure. Accelerating the pace of the energy transition and expanding its scope beyond the power sector will not only reduce carbon emissions; it will improve lives, create jobs, achieve development goals, and ensure a cleaner and more prosperous future,” says IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin in a press release.

Although some other recent reports indicate clean energy investment dropped in 2016, IRENA’s publication highlights how global investment in renewables has steadily grown for more than a decade – rising from less than $50 billion in 2004 to a record $305 billion in 2015. In turn, countries are making headway to meet international carbon-reduction targets, according to the group.

“As we advance deeper into a new energy paradigm, we need to pick up the pace of our decarbonization efforts,” Amin points out. “Policies and regulations continue to remain crucial to this end and to develop the renewables market. We are seeing more and more countries hold auctions to deploy renewables, and as variable and distributed sources of renewables take on a greater role, regulators have implemented changes to enable grid integration at scale. Heating and cooling and the potential of renewables for transport are areas where future efforts are needed.”

Other key findings of the report include the following:

  • Renewable energy auctions are gaining popularity in developed and developing countries and generating record-breaking low prices;
  • Demand for battery storage is increasing rapidly and playing a larger part in integrating variable renewables. IRENA estimates that battery storage for electricity could increase from less than 1 GW today to 250 GW by 2030;
  • New capital-market instruments are helping increase available finance by offering new groups of investors access to investment opportunities;
  • Institutional investors are moving into renewable energy because it offers stable returns over the long term; and
  • New business models are promising new ways to finance renewable energy.

In addition, according to the report, off-grid renewables provide electricity to an estimated 90 million people worldwide and enable people to climb the energy ladder.

“Achieving universal electricity access by 2030 will require us to boost global power generation; nearly 60 percent of that will have to come from stand-alone and mini-grid solutions,” says Amin. “Meeting this aim with off-grid renewables depends on the right combination of policies, financing, technology and institutional capacity. Making needed changes and accelerating deployment will allow countries to address global issues in sustainability, education, gender equality, health, water and food.”

The full REthinking Energy report can be downloaded here.


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