IEA: Majority of world’s energy could come from solar by 2060

The majority of the world’s energy be supplied by solar power–both photovoltaics and concentrating solar power (CSP)–by the year 2060, according to a Cedric Phillbert senior energy analyst at the Paris-based International Energy Agency. In order for world energy production to attain this proportion of solar power generation, however, significant action would be required in the short-term future to ensure that the aspiration can become a reality.

The speculative forecast does not come as a total surprise, especially considering its long-term nature. Renewable energy investment and capacity has been on the rise globally (up $20 billion dolars to $153 billion in mid-2010 as compared to the previous year, according to to Bloomberg Finance). Solar power in China, for example has been projected to reach electricity grid parity as early as 2015, thanks in part to a recently introduced nation-wide solar feed-in tariff. China already leads the world in renewable energy investment and installed capacity. 8.3% of China’s energy comes from renewable sources as it stands (although most of this comes from hydro and wind), and its goal for 2015 is 11.3%.

The statement by Phillbert goes beyond previous IEA projections that, with strong government support over the next five years, renewable energy could supply up to 60% of the world’s energy production by 2030 and 70% by 2060. These forecasts echo those of Beyond Zero Emissions’ Stationary Energy Plan, which (although criticised) attempts to point out a way forward for Australia’s electricity generation toward renewables and away from fossil fuel-based production.

The projections underscore the feasibility of such a transition and will hopefully provoke bolder, more intelligent and comprehensive government action towards the uptake of renewables both worldwide as well as in Australia, although caution is certainly needed in any approach. Whilst the current Australian government’s proposed carbon tax and associated renewable energy support programs will doubtlessly help to move the country into a pro-renewable direction, the political situation is fragile. Even if the legislation is passed, there is the danger of its subsequently being repealed or heavily modified after the next election. Additionally, there is the argument that the provisions under the carbon tax as it is currently proposed are insufficient in terms of their effect on carbon emissions abatement and support for renewable energy sources, instead focusing too heavily on making the transition easy and comfortable for coal and fossil fuel interests groups.

© 2011 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Resources and Links:

Related Solar Choice Articles: How would a carbon tax affect Australia’s solar industry? : What is grid parity and what does it mean for solar power? : Coal subsidies vs Renewables Subsidies in Australia : Solar Choice Solar Quote Comparisons

Bloomberg: “Solar may produce most of world’s power by 2060, says IEA” “Chinese Solar Power could reach grid parity by 2015”

IEA: “Renewable energy is essential for limiting global temperature increase, experts say” “China Tops 2011 Index Rankings for Renewable Energy”

Beyond Zero Emissions, “Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan”

ClimateSpectator: “China’s Big Solar Boost”

James Martin II