Experts are hailing a ‘new era’ as the International Energy Agency releases data showing that solar power is the fastest growing source of energy
Despite Donald Trump’s pledges to revive coal as the dominant source of energy, the US is currently the second fastest growing market for solar after China.
Falling prices and subsidies have made renewable energy more cost-effective, and the UK’s first subsidy-free solar farm opened just this year, showing solar power can be independently financially viable, surpassing fossil fuels in growth for the first time.
China boasts the biggest solar power market, and India is expecting a solar boom, with the country expected to double its renewable energy use by 2022.
Despite the new solar farm, the UK’s future in renewable energy is less sure, and due to the country’s status as an island, the most viable option for renewable energy is offshore wind.
Paolo Frankl from the International Energy Agency (IEA) was pleased with the results but warned that the future may not be set in stone:
“Be careful, because this does not automatically mean they are competitive and investment will flow.”
“That depends on the risk of investment and whether remuneration flows to make a project bankable or not.”
Behind the figures
The IEA credited the growth to a global installation of photovoltaic panels, especially in China.
They also credited the falling costs and rise in government grants and subsidies for solar panels and research into solar energy.
They say the growth will be twice as large as gas and coal combined over the next five years.
However, there are fears over the Trump administration’s attitude towards renewable energy, as the Trump campaign was run on the promise of boosting the coal industry.
It is feared that subsidies could be reformed or tariffs could be placed on Chinese-made solar panels.
The IEA said the biggest task now is integrating solar into existing power grids, and the introduction of storage batteries to house excess power and make them more adaptable.