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IEA Says Solar May Provide One-Third of Global Energy by 2060

published: 2011-12-02 10:24

Solar technologies such as photovoltaic panels, water heaters and power stations built with mirrors could provide a third of the world’s energy by 2060 if politicians commit to limiting climate change, the International Energy Agency said.

Energy from the sun could play a key role in de-carbonizing the global economy alongside improvements in efficiency and imposing costs on greenhouse-gas emitters, the agency said in a report today.

“The strength of solar is the incredible variety and flexibility of applications, from small scale to big scale,” Paolo Frankl, the agency’s head of renewable energy, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Economic activity will shift toward the sunnier zones around the equator by 2050, making solar energy a viable power source for most of the global economy, the report said. Those regions will be home to almost 80 percent of the human race by the middle of the century, compared with about 70 percent today, and their energy needs will be higher as living standards in countries such as Brazil and India approach those of the U.S. and Europe.

To realize the potential of solar power, officials should move away from a strategy of subsidizing individual technologies such as solar panels or solar-thermal generators toward measures such as a carbon price that encourages a broader view of the energy transition, Frankl said.

Government policy needs to take an “integrated approach combining solar with energy efficiency and having as its main objective an increase in total system efficiency and the reduction of total costs,” he added. “Every good renewable energy policy starts with energy efficiency.”

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