Welcome to Solar-Powered Earth!
Have you ever considered why, in 2017, around 16% of population worldwide lack access to electricity and energy? This, with today´s global population of approximately 7,6 billion signifies that an estimated 1,2 billion human beings currently live without access to any kind of electricity. Majority of these people live in Sub-Saharan Africa, and around 300 million people in India. This in a world that could theoretically be completely powered through renewable sources of energy, such as solar power.
Perhaps it is not only a coincidence that population with no access to electricity live in warm, tropical climates. In colder climates, life and survival without access to energy, electricity, heat and power would make life much more challenging. However, if we think back in history, it has not been very long that our own ancestors and relatives lived without electricity and heating, even in cold climates. For instance my father, who was born in 1946, spent his childhood living in a home in Finnish Lapland without electricity. It is less than a century ago – to be precise, 71 years.
At that time Finland was a poor country, recovering and building a modern welfare society which today is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of democracy, education, healthcare, equality, human rights, just to mention a few attributes of a welfare nation. Modernization of a society, including allowing these 1,2 billion people access to power, can take place rapidly. If and when this happens, why not allow these people access to clean, renewable energy such as solar power?
According to the World Energy Council, government policies (and, legislation) have had an impact on the world´s most mature solar energy markets Australia, Europe, and the United States. However, costs for solar power are falling rapidly. The REN21 forecasts in its Renewables Global Futures Report that by 2050, the whole world could be 100% powered through renewable sources of energy, including solar power. Global installed capacity for solar-powered electricity has grown rapidly from basically zero GW in 2005 to more than 300 GW today, with a market increase of almost 50% in 2016 alone. Currently, solar PV provides the Earth with around two per cent (2%) of total electricity, with a capacity of more than 300 GW (one gigawatt equals one billion (1,000,000,000,000) watts). (IEA 2017; REN21 2017; World Energy Council 2016).
With most renewable energy being installed in developing countries, primarily in China, the sector employed 9.8 million people. The vast majority, 62%, of these jobs were in the biofuels and solar sectors, and mainly in Asia. In 2015, all renewable energy sources combined provided an estimated 19.3% of total global energy consumption. The leading countries in terms of total solar PV capacity in 2016 were China, Japan, Germany, United States, and Italy. Policy makers in almost all countries worldwide now support renewable energy development, with COP22 leaders from 48 developing countries dedicated to achieving 100% renewable energy in their nations. (REN21 2017).
In terms of solar PV capacity additions in 2016, China led the world market with a 46% share, followed by the United States (20%), Japan (11.5%), India (5.5%), United Kingdom (2.7%), Germany (2.0%), Republic of Korea (1.1%), Australia (1.1%), Philippines (1.0%), Chile (1.0%), and the rest of the world combined (8%). Reasons for deployment of solar power in countries worldwide vary from lack of fossil fuel resources, energy policies targeting to diversify a country´s energy portfolio, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. (REN21 2017).
Although oil and gas prices have been in decline, investments from a number of stakeholders, including corporations and financial institutions along with fossil fuel producers and oil exporting countries within the renewable and solar power sector continue to grow. Solar power is even being utilized for oil production. In 2015, total investment in the energy sector worldwide was USD 1.8 trillion, USD 161 billion of which was invested in solar power alone. (REN 21 2017; IEA 2016; World Energy Council 2016).
Learn more by watching Bloomberg´s video “The Way We Get Power Is About to Change Forever”:
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