Solar power to grow sixfold by 2030 as costs continue to fall

The amount of electricity generated using solar panels stands to expand as much as sixfold by 2030 as the cost of production falls below competing natural gas and coal-fired plants, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Solar plants using photovoltaic technology could account for 8%-13% of global electricity produced in 2030, compared with 1.2% at the end of last year, the Abu Dhabi-based industry group said in a new report.

The average cost of electricity from a photovoltaic system is forecast to plunge as much as 59% by 2025, making solar the cheapest form of power generation “in an increasing number of cases,” it said.

Renewables are replacing nuclear energy and curbing electricity production from gas and coal in developed areas such as Europe and the US, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

California’s PG&E Corp is proposing to close two nuclear reactors as wind and solar costs decline.

Even as supply gluts depress coal and gas prices, solar and wind technologies will be the cheapest ways to produce electricity in most parts of the world in the 2030s, New Energy Finance said in a report this month.

“The renewable energy transition is well under way, with solar playing a key role,” Irena director general Adnan Amin said.

“Cost reductions, with other enabling factors, can create a dramatic expansion of solar power globally.”

Bloomberg New Energy Finance also forecasts growth in solar photovoltaics, reaching 15% of total electricity output by 2040, according to Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis in Zurich.

The “most attractive” markets for solar panels up to 2020 include Brazil, Chile, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, the Philippines and Russia, according to Irena. Global capacity could reach 1,760 to 2,500 gigawatts in 2030, compared with 227 gigawatts at the end of 2015.

As of 2015, the average cost of electricity from a utility-scale solar photovoltaic system was 13c per kilowatt hour. That’s more than coal and gas-fired plants that averaged 5c to 10c per kilowatt hour.


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