Solar photovoltaic on the brink of economic breakthrough

New study projects solar investments to double until 2015

Press release - 2 February, 2011
Brussels, Belgium, 2 February 2011: Global investments in solar photovoltaic (PV) technology could double from €35-40 billion today to over €70 billion in 2015, according to a study published today by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and Greenpeace International. The estimated investments in the European Union alone would rise from today’s €25-30 billion to over €35 billion in 2015.

This report on the global market outlook for solar photovoltaic, named “Solar Generation 6” (1) foresees that PV could account for 12% of European power demand by 2020, and up to 9% of the global power demand by 2030.
 
“Our goal is to make solar photovoltaic technology a mainstream power source through policy support at an optimal cost for consumers,” (2) said Sven Teske, Senior Energy Expert at Greenpeace International. “Solar photovoltaic is a key technology for combating climate change; our research shows that it creates 35 to 50 jobs per tonne of CO2 savings and will increase the security of energy supplies by reducing dependency on energy imports to Europe.”
 
“Solar photovoltaic technology has, for many years now, shown increased power efficiencies and cost reductions,” said Ingmar Wilhelm, President of EPIA.  “Today’s cost predictions, driven by economies of scale in light of global photovoltaic capacity, totalling 40,000 MW in 2010, show that the technology is on the brink of an economic breakthrough.”
 
Since 2005, PV prices have dropped some 40% and by 2015 the cost of PV systems is expected to drop by an additional 40% compared to current levels. As a result, PV systems will be able to compete with electricity prices for households in many countries of the European Union within the next five years.
 
“We aim to make this important phase of cost competitiveness visible, and the EPIA will provide a realistic road-map for every country with clear concepts on market mechanisms allowing equal treatment of all electricity sources,” added EPIA’s president.
 
The report estimates that current global solar PV capacity could grow from over 36 GW at the end of 2010 to close to 180 GW by 2015. European PV capacity is expected to increase from over 28 GW in 2010 to nearly 100 GW by 2015, and has potential to reach up to 350 GW on a global basis by 2020. This would save as much as 1.4 billion tonnes in CO2 emissions globally and 220 million tonnes CO2 within the EU every year(3).
 
In addition to its environmental benefits, the report shows solar energy to be a sustainable way to address concerns about energy security and volatile fossil fuel prices, as well as a substantial factor in economic development. The European PV industry, which already employs over 300,000 people, could provide jobs to over 600.000 by 2015, and has potential to further increase to 1.6 million in 2020 if general policy support remains effective.
 
The “Solar Generation 6” report also highlights the enormous PV potential for Europe in the light of the Union’s established 20% renewable energy and the 20% energy efficiency target. Based on this potential for photovoltaic growth, the EU could easily increase its emission reduction target from the current 20% by 2020 to a more aggressive 30% level.
 
The “Solar Generation 6” report is available for download.
 
For further information please contact:
 
Sven Teske, Greenpeace International, +49 171 878 7552
Alexandra Dawe, Greenpeace International Communications, +31 646 177 533
Marie Latour, Communications Department EPIA, +32 479 20 29 59
 
 
Notes to Editors:
 
1. The “Solar Generation 6” is a joint initiative by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and Greenpeace. The title Solar Generation reflects the study’s aim to define the role that solar electricity will play in the lives of a population that is born today and will develop into an important energy consumption group.
 
2. Greenpeace International and the European Photovoltaic Industry Association are urging governments to secure those investments with support programmes. The most successful scheme is a “Feed-in Tariff” which guarantees a specific price for each kilowatt-hour fed into the grid. Over 50 countries, states and provinces have already introduced the “feed-in policy” globally. In these countries, consumers are able to operate a solar system on their rooftops in an economically viable way.
 
3. Over the whole scenario period, it is estimated that an average of 0.6 kg of CO2 would be saved per kilowatt-hour of output from a solar generator. For the period 2025-2050, a moderate annual growth rate of 5% has been assumed, as well as a very conservative lifetime of 20 years for PV modules. The scenario is also divided in two ways – into the four main global market divisions (consumer applications, grid-connected, remote industrial and off-grid rural), and into the regions of the world as defined in projections of future electricity demand made by the International Energy Agency. These regions are OECD Europe, OECD Pacific, OECD North America, Latin America, East Asia, South Asia, China, the Middle East, Africa and the Rest of the World.

 

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