olar energy is expanding rapidly across the globe – it took only ten years for the Earth's solar capacity to skyrocket from 100 gigawatts (GW) in 2012 to 1 terawatt (TW) in 2022. It's safe to say that solar is the most promising renewable energy source of the day and will almost certainly be the backbone of the future global energy mix. Here are the top three reasons why we should think of solar panels as a key to a sustainable future.
Reason 1: Solar energy is a bridge away from fossil fuels
Fossil fuels have been the main driver of the global economy for over 150 years and are widely used to this day – they account for 81% of the world's electricity consumption. However, as environmental concerns keep mounting up, solar energy is increasingly seen as a strong candidate to challenge oil, gas, and coal for the top spot in the global energy market.
Burning fossil fuels is now by far the biggest single driver of climate change, accounting for over 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and about 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions. The use of solar panels, on the contrary, offers a zero-emissions electricity supply. The amount of CO2 PV power systems emit is negligible – only around 50g per kWh of energy in the first few years of use. Generally, it takes only three years for PV panels to become carbon neutral. With a carbon footprint of around 20 times less than coal-powered energy sources, solar power is expected to play a central role in transforming the world's energy landscape.
Reason 2: Solar energy is cheaper than you may think
Some skeptics mistakenly believe that using solar energy is not economically viable and that PV panels stand a chance against fossil fuels only when heavily subsidized. In fact, many countries do have policies tailored to facilitate solar deployment to speed clean energy transition. But gone are the days when solar panels were inferior to other energy sources in terms of cost efficiency.
The World Energy Outlook 2020, released by the International Energy Agency (IEA), marked a turning point in the history of renewables, naming solar “cheapest energy in history.” According to the report, new utility-scale PV projects became cheaper than new coal- or gas-fired power plants in most markets, and photovoltaics now offers the lowest levelized cost of energy (LCOE) ever seen.
Solar power becomes even more cost-competitive considering the global trend of rising energy prices. For example, crude oil prices have soared by a whopping 350% from April 2020 to April 2022 — the most significant increase for any equivalent period since the 1970s. Consequently, there is every reason to expect more and more homeowners and businesses will switch to the use of renewables to cut energy costs, which will provide an additional boost to solar energy worldwide.
Reason 3: Solar industry creates jobs and spurs economic growth
One more important point in favor of expanding the use of solar needs to be mentioned: solar is a leader in job creation and employment. Worldwide employment in the renewable industry reached 12.7 million last year, and solar energy was named the fastest-growing sector. It created as many as 4.3 million jobs, more than a third of the total renewable workforce.
Overall, solar energy delivers significant socio-economic benefits, promotes private-sector investment, and boosts industrial growth.