Correction: IEA unveils new PV roadmap

Correction: On Friday, September 26, pv magazine erroneously quoted International Energy Agency (IEA) officials in a misleading way. Our report stated incorrectly that the IEA had forecast that solar power would account for more than 50% of global energy supply by 2050. These figures, and the wording with which they were presented, were incorrect. The IEA does not make such forecasts; rather, it published a roadmap whereby a scenario could occur where solar PV accounts for 16% of world electricity production by 2050. An additional 11% from solar thermal energy could – at 27% of the globe’s electricity source – make solar power the largest source of electricity by 2050. IEA’s new roadmap refers only to electricity generation – an important distinction from total energy supply, which was incorrectly referred to in the original article.

On Monday, September 29, the IEA discussed its latest Energy Technology Perspectives 2014 roadmap in a live webinar in which the issue of solar power’s potential rise to the forefront of global electricity production was discussed.

The IEA has begun to view PV in a more positive light. In yesterday’s webinar, IEA director, Maria van der Hoeven unveiled a new roadmap, according to which PV will, by the year 2050, produce almost twice as much electricity as in the previous so-called 2DS road map. 2DS stands for “two degree scenario” and is intended to ensure that global warming remains below two degrees celsius.

The new variant of the 2DS scenario with the higher share of renewable energy would cost 3% more compared to the other scenario, which uses more nuclear power and coal power with carbon dioxide storage, according to calculations. In this new scenario the share of PV electricity will increase to 16% of the total electricity generation in 2050; in the variant withouth more priority given to renewables, that share is around 9.5%. For both scenarios, an economic optimization was undertaken.

The new roadmap shows, according to IEA, what could or should happen if the climate change is taken seriously and if nuclear power and carbon capture and storage are somewhat limited in their expansion.

New roadmap for solar electricity. (source: IEA presentation)

In the new scenario, the solar share of the global electricity supply rises sharply until 2040. One of the reasons for the increased role of PV is that, already, the installed capacity of PV is five years ahead of the capacity seen in previous scenarios. The installed capacity, which had been planned for 2020 in the earlier roadmap, will be achieved as early as next year. From 2030 onwards, PV will increasingly have to compete with solar thermal power, which in the eyes of IEA experts can store the energy more easily. Currently, its development is seven years behind that envisaged by the earlier road map. Together they could be – among others – an important source of electricity, with a share of 27% of the total production. While at utility-scale PV has many competitors, at distributed level it has a great competitive advantage.

The roadmap provides for differing amounts of PV in various regions of the world. In Latin America it is relatively little, at around 10% because that region already boasts sizeable hydropower. The European Union is also below average at only 8%. The European winter means that expansion is not the best option, and wind power also has great potential across the continent. According to the road map, nuclear energy and natural gas will produce one-fifth of electricity in the EU in 2050.

The IEA experts place much emphasis on the message to the political world. It is important to set long-term goals, where they should also take into consideration future cost reductions. It is important to develop fair rules for decentralized PV systems on residential and commercial buildings, the agency stresses. Both are important to reduce the cost of financing because such costs are particularly high for solar technologies as almost the entire cost is incurred at installation and needs to be financed in advance. The financing costs could best be reduced in that the politics are as foreseeable as possible.

Translated by Kevin Campbell

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