Cost reductions herald solar boom

22nd June 2016

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Generation ,
  • Renewable ,
  • Business & Industry ,
  • Energy



Significant reductions in costs could drive a sharp increase in global solar PV capacity to meet 13% of global power needs by 2030, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

In a new report, the agency said cost reductions of up to 59% are possible in the next ten years, which it predicted would increase solar PV capacity to between 1,760GW and 2,500GW worldwide by 2030 – up from 227GW today and 40GW five years ago.

Electricity generated by solar PV regularly costs 5–10 US cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in Europe, China, India, South Africa and the US, IRENA said.

Investment in solar PV now represents more than half of all investment in the renewable energy sector, the report states. In 2015, global investment reached $67 bn for rooftop solar PV, $92 bn for utility-scale systems and $267 mn for off-grid applications, it says. Overall, the technology accounted for 20% of all new power generation capacity in 2015.

The sector employs the largest number of people of any renewable energy, with 2.8 million people in manufacturing, installation and maintenance.

Carbon dioxide emissions have been cut by up to 300 million tonnes a year through use of solar PV systems. This could increase to up to three gigatonnes per year in 2030, IRENA predicted.

The report recommends that governments update policies based on the latest innovations, and that a global standards framework should be created for components and systems to increase investor confidence.

The analysis is the second on the solar sector to be published this week by IRENA. The first focused on the untapped business opportunities for recycling as decommissioned solar panels begin to enter the waste stream. PV panel waste could total 78 million tonnes by 2050.

The value of the recovered material could exceed $15 bn by 2050 if fully injected back into the economy, IRENA estimated. The materials could produce 2 billion new panels or be sold into global commodity markets, which would increase the security of future PV supply or other raw material-dependent products.

IRENA director general Adnan Z Amin said that, in order to take advantage of these opportunities, businesses should prepare now for the surge in end-of-life material.

Stefan Nowak, chair of the International Energy Agency’s Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme, said: ‘Experience with electronic waste tells us that developing technological and regulatory systems for efficient, effective and affordable end-of-life management requires long lead times.

‘This timely report can be used by public and private sector institutions to anchor the necessary investments in technology and policy research and development and supporting analyses to unlock the significant recoverable value in end-of-life panels.’

In most countries, PV panels fall under the classification of ‘general waste’, the IRENA report notes. The exception is the EU, where the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive requires panel producers to finance the costs of collecting and recycling end-of-life PV panels put on the market in Europe.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Renewables account for almost half of Britain’s power generation

Solar power generation hit a new high in the last quarter as renewables accounted for almost half of Britain’s energy production, according to a report from Montel Analytics.

18th July 2024

Read more

Ahead of the UK general election next month, IEMA has analysed the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Green Party manifestos in relation to the sustainability agenda.

19th June 2024

Read more

Sarah Spencer on the clear case for stronger partnerships between farmers and renewable energy developers

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Although many organisations focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions, it is vital to factor in scope 3 emissions and use their footprint to drive business change

31st May 2024

Read more

Joe Nisbet explores the challenges and opportunities of delivering marine net gain through offshore renewables

31st May 2024

Read more

IEMA submits response to the Future Homes Standard consultation

31st May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close