Solar energy - the 'alternative' way forward

  • Noopur Tiwari, Hindustan Times, Paris
  • Updated: Oct 05, 2014 17:59 IST

The sun could be the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050, ahead of fossil fuels, wind, hydro and nuclear, according to a pair of reports issued by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Solar photovoltaic systems (PV) could generate up to 16% of the world’s electricity by 2050, while solar thermal electricity (STE) from concentrating solar power plants could provide an additional 11%.

A combination of both these solar technologies could prevent the emission of more than 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2050 – that is more than all current energy-related CO2 emissions from the United States or almost all of the direct emissions from the transport sector worldwide today.

In most parts of India, the sun is strong and skies are clear with North-western India being one of the most favourable areas for solar power resource.

India will be able to reach the highest reduction in additional CO2 emission in 2050 and along with China could account for half the global additional emission reductions with the help of STE.

While PV is already expanding globally, with China leading the world, followed by the United States, STE is likely to expand further. This presents a major opportunity for India, which could become the third largest producer in terms of solar power plant capacity, just behind the Middle East and the US. This is however not a forecast on what will happen but what should happen if the right steps are taken, IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven clarified.

“Both technologies are very capital intensive: almost all expenditures are made upfront. Lowering the cost of capital is thus of primary importance for achieving the vision in these roadmaps.”

Currently, Spain is the leading country with 2% annual electricity from solar power plants with US at second place. In the rest of the world, UAE and India have the largest plants.

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