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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

Solar PV power generation in the Net Zero Scenario, 2010-2030

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More effort needed in Solar PV generation

Solar PV generation increased by a record 179 TWh (up 22%) in 2021 to exceed 1 000 TWh. It demonstrated the second largest absolute generation growth of all renewable technologies in 2021, after wind. Solar PV is becoming the lowest-cost option for new electricity generation in most of the world, which is expected to propel investment in the coming years.

However, average annual generation growth of 25% in the period 2022-2030 is needed to follow the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario. This corresponds to a more than threefold increase in annual capacity deployment until 2030, requiring much greater policy ambition and more effort from both public and private stakeholders, especially in the areas of grid integration and the mitigation of policy, regulation and financing challenges. This is particularly the case in emerging and developing countries.

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.
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.