Is it time for the world to start thinking about 1.7C?


Norwegian energy consultant Rystad Energy has warned the global solar manufacturing industry will have to quadruple in scale by 2035 to keep the average temperature rise this century below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Oslo-based data company said a 1.5C world would require the 330 GW of annual solar module manufacturing capacity recorded in the middle of this year to rise to 1.2-1.4 TW within 14 years. The consultancy appears to have joined the commentators preparing to state the Paris Agreement will soon be beyond our reach, as it stated on Friday, limiting global heating to a less ambitious 1.7C would require a more manageable 1-1.2 TW of panel output – by 2045.

Rystad pointed to the rising input costs for module manufacturers which have driven up the price of solar panels and – along with more expensive labor – the cost of constructing solar projects.

With solar panel basic material mono-grade polysilicon having risen in price from $7.60/kg in 2019 to an expected $18/kg this year, Rystad also highlighted the soaring cost of the silver used in panels, with the precious metal having gone up from $550/kg two years ago to $850/kg this year.

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The solar industry already consumes around 10% of the world's annual silver supply and Rystad estimated it will need seven times as much for the 1.5C, 2035 module target, unless manufacturers can reduce the amount used in products.

Copper, aluminum, steel and glass were also highlighted as problematic input materials by the consultancy, which said the 84% of annual solar panel production capacity which actually translated into shipments in 2018, had fallen to 71% a year later, and as low as 58% last year as Covid-19 wreaked havoc with logistics and labor, driving down demand for modules.

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