Global Solar Energy May Reach 980 Gigawatts by 2020

Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Global solar energy capacity may reach 980 gigawatts by 2020 as governments worldwide seek to reduce fossil fuel consumption and cut emissions of greenhouse gases, a group of renewable energy associations said.

Development of photovoltaic and solar thermal power projects will cut emissions of carbon dioxide by about 570 million tons over the decade, the equivalent of shutting down 100 coal-fueled power plants or taking 110 million cars off the road, according to a report released in Cancun, Mexico, today by the Washington-based Solar Energy Industries Association.

The report took place as United Nations envoys in Cancun consider whether to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to cut man-made emissions of carbon dioxide that scientists say contribute to global warming. The trade group of 21 associations from around the world urged governments to include solar energy incentives as part of the effort to address climate change.

“The capital needed to manufacture that much capacity is staggering,” said Nancy Hartsoch, vice president of marketing at SolFocus Inc., a Palo Alto, California-based maker of concentrating photovoltaic panels. “And because solar hasn’t reached grid-parity in most regions, that kind of deployment would require stronger policies than we’ve got in place now.”

The solar groups plan to discuss their report, which includes development profiles for 20 countries and the European Union, during a Dec. 6 presentation in Cancun.

For the U.S., boosting total solar capacity to 139 gigawatts, as the report predicts, would account for 4.9 percent of the country’s total output, add 683,0000 jobs and help reduce the cost of electricity to $2.32 a watt from $5.71 today.

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