Hydropower, Solar

Solar Power: For the Common Good

Solar power can deliver electricity to more than 2 billion people and provide more than 2 million jobs with an annual investment of 113 billion Euros by 2025, reveals a joint report, “Solar Generation,” recently released by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and Greenpeace International. The market report explains that 350 million tons of CO2 emissions would be cut — the equivalent amount from 140 coal power stations — and by 2040, solar electricity could provide more than 16% of the global power demand. To follow are excerpts from the foreword and a link to download the full report.

Excerpts from the report’s foreword: The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and Greenpeace publish this third edition of Solar Generation to update our understanding of the contribution that solar power can make to the world’s energy supply. The report is a practical blueprint to show that solar power is capable of supplying electricity to more than one billion people within two decades, even if our overall electricity use doubles in that time. Solar Generation aims to define the role that solar electricity will play in the lives of a population born today and growing up into an important energy saving and consumption group. The aim has been to examine how solar electricity will be perceived from both the consumer and the business point of view within the timescale of one single generation. The report highlights the benefits which solar energy offers to the world — for the climate and environment, for social development, for economy and supply as well as for industry and employment. 1. Employment and Solar Industry Solar photovoltaics can and should play an important role within a sustainable energy system of the future. Solar photovoltaics (PV) is one of the key technologies to generate decentralised electricity for private households around the world, and the technology is on its way. The market has grown by more than 40 % each year for almost one decade now and the industry is investing large sums for building more production facilities each year. The further development of PV solar electricity out of niche markets to a common mainstream technology will be crucial in 2006 and 2007. The PV market is still dependent on policy. A clear industrial and political commitment from Governments to the expansion of the PV industry implies that the current surge of activity in the solar electricity sector represents only a foretaste of the massive transformation and expansion that this sector will experience in the coming decades. Due to adequate market support programs in a relatively small number of countries, the first market rush has performed already. Long term foreseeable conditions for example provided by the German feed in tariff act (EEG) lead the PV Solar electricity industry to become a remarkable business partner generating jobs. This is about to continue, when new investments on production facilities for solar silicon cells and modules come on line between 2007 and 2010. The PV solar industry is at a crossroads — once the supply bottleneck is passed, when new facilities are online to allow for major production growth, the industry can become a serious player in the power sector. Phasing in PV solar electricity will therefore require a shift from centralised to decentralised power production, passing far greater control to individual consumers. 2. Security of Affordable Energy Supply As prices are skyrocketing for oil, gas and coal coming form countries with political instability, the question of affordable, clean and secure energy supply becomes a question of renewable energies. More and more people see that fossil fuels have a negative impact on the world’s climate, the economy and everyday lives. Renewable energies and energy efficiency can cover future energy needs, but seeing it from today’s eyes, a long-term strategy is required in order to meet this target. The shift in the energy sector takes a least one generation — the “Solar Generation.” Solar power is a prime choice in developing an affordable, feasible, global power source that can substitute fossil fuels in all climate zones around the world. The solar radiation reaching the earth’s surface in one year is providing more than 10,000 times over the yearly needs worldwide. Whereas large solar thermal power plants can harvest the sun centralised in dry and hot desert like areas to generate electrical energy, PV solar electricity is to supply energy decentralised at the very place where consumed. 3. Poverty Eradication Poverty eradication for the 2 billion people today, and many more to come if no actions are taken seriously, is a prerequisite for a peaceful world tomorrow. An essential ingredient for this is an energy infrastructure especially in rural areas of China, India, Africa, South America and all others. Already today, decentralized electricity supply is done with PV solar electricity in the most economic way, which will even be more pronounced with declining prices of PV systems in the future, Hence we can envisage in the coming decades a 50% market devoted to off-grid rural PV systems compared to only 10% as of today. 4. Climate Change Climate change in increasingly accepted as one of the biggest man-made threats facing our globe if we continue to burn fossil fuels as of today. We have now reached a point, where CO2 and other green house gas emissions have already induced excessive floods, draughts and intensified hurricanes and typhoons. If we are not rigorously changing our fossil fuel addiction we very soon are crossing a point, when not even more floods, droughts and heavier storms are occurring but changes in ocean circulation, melting of glaciers and even the artic ice will occur with obviously destructive results for mankind. Fortunately, we have technologies at hand — the portfolio of Renewable Energies — that could change this death spiral towards a green and sustainable well being. Conclusion Reports are a useful guide, but it is people who change the world by their actions. We encourage politicians and policymakers, global citizens, energy officials, companies, investors and other interested parties to support solar power by taking the crucial steps to help ensure that more than a billion people will get electricity from the sun in the future, harnessing the full potential of solar power for our common good. Dr. Winfried Hoffmann is president of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA). Sven Teske is Greenpeace International’s Renewables Director.