Working in the solar industry, we’re used to hearing the classic naysayers’ refrain which goes something like this: “Solar is a feel-good fantasy that will never really catch on because it’s too expensive.” We’ve been trying to disprove this myth for quite a while (except for the feel-good part–that’s true!). But don’t take it from us, listen to what the über-authoriative International Energy Agency (IEA) has to say about solar’s future in its May 2010 Technology Roadmap: 25% of global electricity by 2050 and “grid parity” by 2020. (Grid parity means solar costs the same as conventional electricity). To achieve grid parity, we’ll of course have to stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $557 billion a year globally, which will require the kind of political backbone I’ve yet to see in my 40-something lifetime.
But the renewable energy optimism award surely goes to the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) which, in conjunction with Greenpeace, released a report last week concluding that renewables can supply 95% of the world’s electricity by 2050, creating 8.5 million jobs along the way. In the EREC scenario, solar would comprise 30% of the renewable energy feeding the grid. Notice that the EIA and EREC evaluations of solar potential are nearly identical–25% or 30%. When two independent analytical powerhouses reach the same conclusion, odds are they’re spot on. As the fossilized business-as usual-model fades into oblivion, the next bull in the china shop is solar.