Solar electricity should be able to meet 20 to 25 per cent of global electricity production by 2050, according to analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The IEA expects photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to provide 5 per cent of global electricity by 2030 and 11 per cent by 2050, driven by favourable incentive policies for residential and commercial installation. It also expects PV to provide a significant amount of energy for off-grid communities in rural areas.
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is expected to grow to a similar market share - 11 per cent by 2050 - but its expansion will depend largely on the development of dedicated transport lines to bring power from regions with strong sunlight to areas of high population.
According to the IEA, North America is likely to be the biggest producer of CSP electricty, followed by India and North Africa. The latter is expected to export half its production to Europe through power lines across the Mediterranean.
David Matthews, CEO of the Solar Trade Association, said solar PV and CSP would complement each other rather than be in competition.
'The reality is that we need both PV and CSP: PV in northern Europe and CSP in the south where there is the direct sunshine.'
A market analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers and due to be published next week says that the installation of solar PV in the UK is likely to increase five fold by the end of 2010, driven by the newly introduced feed-in tariffs.
PV currrently represents 0.3 per cent of renewable energy in the UK, generating 28 MW. PwC expects that figure to reach 500 MW by 2015.
In the longer term, Matthews said he expects CSP to have the bigger role in meeting the world's power needs because of its lower costs per kilowatt, and its ability to store energy overnight as well as transfer it over long distances.
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