Energy Economy

Solar Power May Be Largest Source of Electricity by 2050

Solar power has taken a back seat to carbon- and nuclear-based energy. That could change by mid-century, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Solar power may become the primary source of electricity.

Based on new data:

The sun could be the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050, ahead of fossil fuels, wind, hydro and nuclear, according to a pair of reports issued today by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The two IEA technology roadmaps show how solar photovoltaic (PV) systems could generate up to 16% of the world’s electricity by 2050 while solar thermal electricity (STE) from concentrating solar power (CSP) plants could provide an additional 11%. Combined, these solar technologies could prevent the emission of more than 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2050 — that is more than all current energy-related CO2 emissions from the United States or almost all of the direct emissions from the transport sector worldwide today.

“The rapid cost decrease of photovoltaic modules and systems in the last few years has opened new perspectives for using solar energy as a major source of electricity in the coming years and decades,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “However, both technologies are very capital intensive: almost all expenditures are made upfront. Lowering the cost of capital is thus of primary importance for achieving the vision in these roadmaps.”

The two largest economies by gross domestic product are at the top of the list in terms of adoption:

PV expands globally, with China being by far the leading country, followed by the United States. Over half of total capacity is situated at the final consumers’ place — whether households, shopping malls or industries. STE expands in very sunny areas with clear skies, becoming a major opportunity for Africa, India, the Middle East and the United States.

Oil and gas companies and the coal industry have a bleak future, if this analysis is accurate.

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