The sun could be the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050, according to a report issued on Monday by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
According to IEA, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems could generate up to 16% of the world’s electricity — overtaking fossil fuels, wind, hydro, and nuclear energy — in a little more than three decades.
In photovoltaic cells, silicon electrons absorb energy from light rays, which is converted into electricity. These are different from thermal solar panels, which generate energy by heating up water.
In the future, every country is expected to increase its share of solar power, with China, currently the world biggest consumer of coal, playing the biggest role, the report said.
The European Union, led by Germany and Italy, currently leads the way in PV electricity generation, while China is the single largest producer of PV energy. However, the report predicts that China and other Asian countries will eventually overtake the EU.
A roadmap created by IEA details the “expected technology improvement targets and the policy actions required to achieve that vision by 2050.”
You can see that China PV alone (in red) should generate around 6% of the global electricity production, with the US (in blue) set to generate around 2%.
“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,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in a statement.
He also pointed out potential roadblocks: “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.”