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Solar

Solar energy is the conversion of sunlight into usable energy forms. Solar photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal electricity and solar heating and cooling are well established solar technologies.

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Key findings

Renewable electricity capacity growth by technology, main and accelerated cases, 2015-2020 and 2021-2026

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Solar PV still dominates renewable energy capacity additions despite rising prices

Even with surging commodity prices increasing manufacturing costs for solar PV, its capacity additions are forecast to grow by 17% in 2021. This will set a new annual record of almost 160 GW. Solar PV alone accounts for 60% of all renewable capacity additions, with almost 1 100 GW becoming operational over the forecast period in our main case, double the rate over the previous five years. In a significant majority of countries worldwide, utility-scale solar PV is the least costly option for adding new electricity capacity, especially amid rising natural gas and coal prices. Utility-scale solar projects continue to provide over 60% of all solar PV additions worldwide. Meanwhile, policy initiatives in China, the European Union and India are boosting the deployment of commercial and residential PV projects.

Solar PV power generation in the Net Zero Scenario, 2000-2030

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Solar PV is not on track with the IEA's Net Zero Scenario

Solar PV is becoming the lowest-cost option for electricity generation in most of the world, which is expected to propel investment in the coming years. However, the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario shows average annual generation growth of 24% between 2020 and 2030, which corresponds to 630 GW of net capacity additions in 2030. This almost fivefold increase in annual deployment until 2030 will require much greater policy ambition and more efforts from both public and private stakeholders, especially in the areas of grid integration and the mitigation of policy, regulation and financing challenges, particularly in emerging and developing countries. More efforts are therefore needed for Solar PV, reflecting the higher ambition of the Net Zero Scenario;

Concentrated solar power generation in the Net Zero Scenario, 2000-2030

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Emphasising plant storage value will be key to attracting investment for concentrating solar power

CSP generation in 2020 was similar to 2019, with capacity additions occurring only in China (about 0.2 GW). CSP is not on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, which models annual average growth of almost 31% between 2020 and 2030, corresponding to an average 6.7 GW of capacity additions annually. Policies that emphasise the value of CSP plant storage as well as efforts to reduce costs will be key to attract additional investment.

Reports

Our work

The SolarPACES TCP supports collaboration to advance development and deployment of concentrating solar thermal technologies. From a system perspective, concentrating solar power (CSP) offers significant advantages. With built-in thermal storage, CSP can improve the flexibility and stability of power systems, provide dispatchable electricity and help integrating more variable renewables.

Through multi-disciplinary international collaborative research and knowledge exchange, as well as market and policy recommendations, the SHC TCP works to increase the deployment rate of solar heating and cooling systems by breaking down the technical and non-technical barriers to increase deployment.

Established in 1993, the PVPS TCP supports international collaborative efforts to enhance the role of photovoltaic solar energy (PV) as a cornerstone in the transition to sustainable energy systems. The PVPS TCP seeks to serve as a global reference for policy and industry decision makers; to act as an impartial and reliable source of information on trends, markets and costs; and to provide meaningful guidelines and recommended practices for state-of-the-art PV applications.