Advances in solar accelerate global shift in electricity generation

Lightsource BP delivers first Indian solar project
Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Filip Fuxa

A report published today by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis describes how

Solar energy is accelerating the transformation of the global electricity-generation sector through gains in technology innovation and price deflation, according to a new report.

Released by Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the Solar Is Driving a Global Shift in Energy Markets details some of the world’s biggest utility-scale and concentrated-solar-power (CSP) projects.

It documents prime examples of large rooftop-solar expansions, floating-solar developments, and solar-with-battery-storage projects. It includes an overview of corporate renewable power purchase deals and a rundown of utilities that have taken a critical lead on the renewable energy front.

“Solar has finally come of age, as can be seen in the many rapid project developments across various technologies and in a broad array of business models,” said Tim Buckley, lead author of the report and IEEFA’s director of energy finance studies, Australasia.

“These advances are occurring alongside gains in storage, wind, hydroelectricity and energy efficiency.”

The report acknowledges recent research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance that puts total global solar installations in 2017 at 98 gigawatts (GW), a 31% increase over 2016.

It notes that China was responsible for over half (53 GW) of that total, and that India installed 10 GW of solar in 2017, almost double its record in 2016.

Crucially, India’s “Scheme for Development of Solar Parks” has proven successful at attracting foreign capital toward construction of the world’s largest ultra-mega solar parks.

“India and China are hardly alone, however, as electricity markets elsewhere accelerate their uptake of solar,” Buckley said.

“Saudi Arabia’s latest announcement of its intentions to develop 200 GW of solar by 2030 through investments from Japanese tech giant Softbank is a great example of the scale at which solar power is likely to expand in the coming years.”

The report delineates important trends in corporate renewable Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) in which tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft and Apple are relying more on solar and wind-energy plants and on rooftop solar capacities on their own facilities.

Manufacturing and logistics companies, airports, railways, and universities are following similar paths.

“As major corporations sign on to such deals, they continue to look to ‘green’ their entire supply chains, many of which sit in emerging markets,” Buckley said.

“This activity helps expand access to international capital markets, which historically has been a key constraint.”