Europe’s Solar PV Potential

04 March of 2010 by

panelwide Europe’s Solar PV PotentialAt the current Photovoltaic (PV) Symposium in Bad Staffelstein themain focus is on the worldwide information exchange about the state ofthe technology - both from the national and international marketdevelopment perspectives.

Speakers with technical as well as economicbackgrounds are presenting the newest results of their work. In a yearwhen we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of this symposium, thediscussion on future strategies on how to increase the solar energysupply is a central theme - highlighted in one of the biggestspecialised exhibition and poster exhibits ever.

I was delighted to give a speech during one of the sessions not onlybecause it was an opportunity to give a retrospective of the past 25years but much more to draw attention to the upcoming years when PVsolar electricity will become one of the mainstream electricity sourcesnot only in Europe but worldwide. The next 10 years and beyond 2020until 2050 I believe will prove to be the truly exciting years for PV.In my capacity as Director of EREC (European Renewable Energy Council),the European umbrella organization for all renewable technologies, Ihighlighted the importance of energy efficient technologies like LEDand OLED for a world using much less energy with the same quality oflife.

With the 20-20-20 Directive,the European Union (EU) set ambitious targets to combat global warmingand secure sustainable energy production. The fact that the PVtechnology can contribute significantly to these ambitious goals, hasalready been shown in the study “SET for 2020”by EPIA (European Photovoltaic Industry Association) and A.T. Kearnylast summer: with electricity from PV systems expected to meet 12% ofEurope’s electricity demands by 2020 in the Paradigm Shift scenario.This corresponds to 390 GWp (gigawatts peak) cumulative installation ofPV. To meet this aggressive goal politicians and regulators need towork with the European energy industry and consumers to create morefavourable conditions like the development of smart grids, smart metersand the control of the electricity demand of all customers (demand sidemanagement), as well as technologies for short-term electricity storage.

When I look at the period after 2020 the perspective for PV becomeseven more promising. Based on the assumption that in 2050 a total of80% of end energy comes from renewable sources and even inextrapolating the most moderate scenario into the following years ashare of electricity produced by PV is about 27% worldwide. Thisrepresents a cumulative installed capacity of 8,000 GW (gigawatts) or11,200 TW / h per year.

Compared to fossil fuels, like oil, coal, gas or uranium used fornuclear energy, renewable energies have two major advantages: they arevirtually inexhaustible and their costs can be reduced over time due tocontinuous technology developments. How long the supply ofreasonable-cost fossil and uranium fuels will be available is difficultto predict. However, when we look at the potential costs to deal withclimate change impacts then each dollar invested in renewable energywill pay off multiple times in the future.

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