A group of global experts on solar power has called for a continued commitment to the growth of photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing and deployment to achieve a climate-neutral global energy system by 2050.
The joint paper on the growth of photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing and deployment was published in the latest issue of Science by experts affiliated with 41 institutions in 15 different countries, including the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).
These institutions led the 3rd Terawatt Workshop in Freiburg, Germany last year, which gathered PV experts to discuss the need for large-scale PV deployment to drive electrification and greenhouse gas reduction.
Assuming a future population of 10 billion, further reductions in PV costs and increased energy consumption in the Global South, the experts suggest that about 75 terawatts or more of globally deployed PV will be required by 2050 to meet decarbonisation goals. The authors stress that identifying a realistic target range for the needed PV deployment is crucial for setting both manufacturing and policy goals.
The paper also highlights that the coming years will be critical for reaching an installation target of this order of magnitude in a realistic way. The PV industry must continue to grow over the next years at rates of about 25 percent, which is consistent with what PV has achieved in past decades. The experts also recommend addressing the threats to multi-terawatt PV deployment such as supply chain issues related to volume demands for components or the potential scarcity of materials. The main material sustainability issue today is silver, as silver consumption for PV is already 10 percent of worldwide production.
Despite considerable growth and cost reduction over the last 30 years, PV currently contributes only 4-5 percent to global electricity generation. The experts emphasise that the next decade is crucial in supporting rapid and sustainable scaling of photovoltaics with a focus on the complete PV supply chain.