Latin America and the Caribbean could grow their installed solar capacity by a factor of 40 by 2050, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows. Annual investments exceeding seven billion would see the region’s solar PV capacity rise from 7 gigawatts (GW) today, to more than 280 GW by mid-century. While solar energy remains the highest in Asia, North America, and Europe, market growth is set to shift to other regions in the world.
By that time, solar PV would represent the second-largest power source behind wind, generating a quarter of the world’s power, “Future of Solar Photovoltaic” launched today at “Sun World 2019” in Lima finds. In total, global solar power capacity would rise from 480 GW in 2018 to over 8000 GW by 2050, growing by nearly 9 percent every year.
“Solar PV and other renewables sources represent the most effective and ready solution for addressing growing energy demand and limiting carbon emission at the same time,” said IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera. “Renewables are practical, affordable and climate-safe. They are key to sustainable development, enabling energy access, spurring economic growth, creating employment and improving health. Particularly solar energy is set to become one of the most prominent power sources in 2050. Projected growth rates in markets like Latin America showcase that we can extend the energy transition to all countries. It’s possible.”
If accompanied by sound policies, the transformation driven by renewables such as solar can bring substantial socioeconomic benefits, IRENA’s new report finds. The global solar industry has the potential to employ over 18 million people by 2050, four times more than the 4.4 million jobs today.
Over the last decade, the installed capacity of off-grid solar PV has grown more than tenfold, from roughly 0.25 GW in 2008 to almost 3 GW in 2018 around the world. With its modular and flexible nature, solar PV technology can be adapted to a wide range of off-grid applications and local conditions. Indeed, off-grid solar PV is a key technology for achieving universal electricity access, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Similarly, the deployment of rooftop solar PV systems has increased extensively, which today makes solar PV in some markets more attractive than buying electricity from the grid. The competitiveness of distributed solar power is raising deployment in large markets, including Brazil, China, Germany, and Mexico.
Accelerating solar PV can cut energy-related CO2 emissions by 21 percent in 2050.
With over 50 percent of installed capacity in 2050, Asia (mostly China) would continue to dominate solar PV power, followed by North America (20%) and Europe (10%). The Latin American market would grow from 7 GW in 2018 to over 280 GW.
Annual solar PV investment would have to increase by 68 percent on average globally, from USD 114 billion in 2018 to USD 192 billion in 2050.
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Global levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for solar PV will continue to fall from an average of 85 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2018 to between 5-14 cents per kWh by 2050. A recent solar and wind power auction in Colombia was awarded for an average electricity price of 27 cents per kWh.
Due to innovations, solar PV remains a fast-evolving industry. Floating PV is one of the most prominent examples with global cumulative installed capacity exceeding 1 GW in 2018. Battery storage and electric vehicles are key solutions to support the grid and manage high shares of solar PV as well as to guarantee the flexibility of the power system.
IRENA is the global intergovernmental organization that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future and serves as the principal platform for international co-operation, a center of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy. With 160 Members (159 States and the European Union) and 23 additional countries in the accession process and actively engaged, IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy including bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind energy, in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity.