e360 digest, June 20, 2012
Global solar consumption, 2001-2011
While renewable energy sources still provide a small portion of the world’s power needs, several new reports suggest that the global community may be underestimating the growth potential for the green energy sector. The Washington Post cited studies showing that global solar generation nearly doubled in 2011, with consumers worldwide using more than 55 terawatt-hours of solar power, compared with about 30 terawatt-hours in 2010. According to one analyst, solar energy has the potential to provide nearly 10 percent of global electricity by 2018 if current trends continue, although growth in recent years has been driven in large part by a decline in solar panel prices and renewable energy subsidies in the U.S., China, and Germany. Indeed, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has projected a slower growth for renewables, although the IEA has previously underestimated the expansion of alternative energy sources. A new report from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory also says it is technically possible for renewable sources to provide 80 percent of the nation’s power by 2050 using technologies that are commercially available today.