Solar electricity could represent up to 20 to 25 percent of global electricity production by 2050. This finding emerges from two new analyses by the International Energy Agency (IEA): the solar Photovoltaic (PV) and Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) roadmaps, launched May 11 in Valencia/Spain, during the Mediterranean Solar Plan Conference hosted by the Spanish presidency of the EU.
The roadmaps detail the technology milestones that would make this possible, highlighting that the two technologies will deploy in different yet complementary ways: PV mostly for on-grid distributed generation in many regions and CSP largely providing dispatchable electricity at utility scale from regions with brightest sun and clearest skies. PV also helps provide energy access off grid in rural areas. Together, PV and CSP could generate 9,000 terawatt hours of power in 2050.
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“This decade is crucial for effective policies to enable the development of solar electricity,” said an IEA representative. “Long-term oriented, predictable solar-specific incentives are needed to sustain early deployment and bring both technologies to competitiveness in the most suitable locations and times.”
With effective policies in place, PV on residential and commercial buildings will achieve grid parity – i.e. with electricity grid retail prices – by 2020 in many regions, according to the reports.The IEA expects CSP to become competitive for peak and mid-peak loads by 2020 in the sunniest places if appropriate policies are adopted.
The IEA noted that “solar PV and CSP appear to be complementary more than competing. The firm capacity and flexibility of CSP plants will help grid operators integrate larger amounts of variable renewable electricity such as solar PV and wind power. PV will expand under a broader range of climate conditions and bring clean renewable electricity directly to end-users.”