2016 the start of ‘a new era in solar PV’ – IEA Renewables 2017 report

The RGN editorial team were present at the release of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Renewables 2017 report, which highlighted solar PV as the front runner of all energy sources in terms of capacity growth over 2016.

IEA executive director Fatih Birol hailed the report as excellent news for the international renewable energy industry, where growth was largely driven by new solar PV capacity additions.

In fact, new solar PV capacity additions represented the highest net growth of all forms of new power last year, including coal, wind and gas. Total new solar PV capacity reached over 74GW, growing by 50% – the equivalent of the total installed capacity of Turkey.

Breaking down these solar PV capacity additions, the market continues to be dominated by Chinese manufacturers, with 50% of all new additions coming from the Asian powerhouse.

However, solar PV capacity additions across the world were driven by two factors; technological advances and greater policy support from international governments.

In addition, greater competition in the industry in recent years has also significantly driven down the average auction prices of solar projects across the world.

“Between 2014 and 2017, the average price for solar was cut by a factor of two on average across the world,” said Birol. “Moreover, we expect that for the next three years there will be another cut in the price by a factor of two.”

Looking towards the future of the solar PV industry, Birol and the IEA expect last year’s progress to form the basis of a continued upward trajectory which will see solar maintain its position as the leading capacity growth market in the renewables industry.

“We see renewables growing by about 1,000GW by 2022, which equals about half of the current global capacity in coal power, which took 80 years to build.

“What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV. We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022.”

As prices continue to fall, the installation of solar PV facilities will become more economic, particularly in emerging nations, which will enable greater electrification in countries across developing Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite the IEA’s forecast of continued growth in the solar PV sector, the organisation highlighted two major challenges to development in the overarching renewables industry.

First, the industry must find better ways of integrating renewable energy into electricity grids, and second governments needs to provide stronger support towards the penetration of renewables into the transport and heat sectors of global energy markets.

RGN was at the official launch of the IEA’s Renewables 2017 report in London, led by executive director Fatih Birol and Paolo Frankl, head of the renewable energy division at the IEA.