Global solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity is projected to surpass 8,000 Gigawatt (GW) by 2050, 18 times the present levels, as per an analysis by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Fast-tracked deployment of solar PV alone can lead to substantial emission reductions of 4.9 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO₂) by 2050, demonstrating 21 per cent of the total emission mitigation potential in the energy sector.
Solar PV could cover a quarter of global electricity needs by mid-century, becoming the second largest generation source after wind. "Such a transformation will only be possible by significantly scaling up solar PV capacity in the next 3 decades. This entails increasing total solar PV capacity almost six-fold over the next ten years, from a global total of 480 GW in 2018 to 2,840 GW by 2030, and to 8,519 GW by 2050," said the IRENA report.
Globally, the total installation cost of solar PV projects are expected to decline significantly in the next three decades. The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for solar PV is already competitive compared to other fossil fuel generation sources.
According to IRENA, the LCOE for solar PV will continue to fall from an average of $ 0.085 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2018 to between $0.02 to 0.08/kWh by 2030 and between $0.014 to 0.05/kWh by 2050.
Going by the trend, the solar industry would employ more than 18 million people by 2050 out of which 14 million would be employed by solar PV alone. To maximize outcomes of the energy transition, however, a holistic policy framework is needed. The energy transformation would also boost gross domestic product by 2.5 per cent and total employment by 0.2 per cent globally by 2050.
Solar PV is emerging as one of the most competitive sources of new power generation capacity after a decade of dramatic cost declines. A decline of 74 per cent in total installed costs was observed between 2010 and 2018. Lower solar PV module prices and ongoing reductions in balance-of-system costs remain the main drivers of reductions in the cost of electricity from solar PV.
Among all renewable technologies, solar PV power installations have been dominating the renewables industry for many years. As of the end of 2018, the global capacity of installed and grid-connected solar PV power reached 480 GW, representing a 20 per cent year-on-year growth compared to 2017 (386 GW) and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 43 per cent since 2000.
To set the world on a pathway towards meeting the aims of the Paris Agreement, energy-related CO₂ emissions need to be reduced by around 3.5 per cent per year from now until 2050, with continued reductions thereafter as well.
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