What does it mean to be the voice of the global solar industry in 2020 with our eyes fixed on the landmark decades ahead, to 2030, 2040 and 2050? The Global Solar Council recognizes that the enormous potential of solar PV has implications that go far beyond the field of electricity generation: shifting away from centralized energy systems built around fossil fuels and towards far greater penetration of solar power will change economic and social relations, creating new opportunities for people in a vast range of jobs and benefits for the Planet, People and Prosperity.
That is the spirit that has guided the work of the Global Solar Council in 2020, under the responsibility of Gianni Chianetta as chairman of the organization.
The Global Solar Council has stepped up its work in promoting solar energy as a critical technology for attracting green investments, generating jobs and catalyzing efforts towards “building back better” and ensuring a better future for all in the decades to come.
That has been evident in our collaboration with partners (joining, for example, IRENA’s Coalition for Action in January), engagement with the sector to understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, a series of topical webinars involving leaders from the PV sector and relevant experts, the launch of three task forces focused on emerging solar markets and the first edition of the Global Solar Council Forum, a two-day virtual event.
BUILDING BACK BETTER AFTER THE PANDEMIC
It’s impossible to talk about the future of the solar PV industry, however, without recognizing the turbulent year we’ve been living through in 2020 and the implications the Covid-19 crisis has on solar power’s prospects.
The Global Solar Council took action in April 2020, surveying about 500 businesses in over 60 countries worldwide to get real-time information from companies on the ground about how they were being impacted and get their input on how governments and institutions could respond and support the PV sector.
See the survey results
In the short-term, the pandemic was particularly disruptive – a dramatic contrast to the story of uninterrupted growth that we have been familiar with in recent years. Firstly, there was the local factor, cited by more than half of respondents to the GSC survey (57%), because lockdowns and restrictions on work and travel hampered day-to-day operations on installations and interrupted the administrative procedures; secondly, just over a third (37%) of respondents said they had problems getting orders, suffering from lower client demand, and struggled to finalize contracts. A lesser problem was the interruption to global supply chains, helped for sure by the rebound in activity in China.
What has emerged from these challenging business conditions has been a broader political and social consensus about the need to “build back better” and put clean energy technologies such as solar power at the heart of government stimulus plans. Nowhere has this been clearer than in the European Commission’s “green deal” package of recovery policies but there are many other examples around the world.
We explored this abrupt change in scenario in two webinars in which we shared the findings of our survey and got updates from the situation in Asia (APVIA), Europe (SolarPower Europe), the USA (ACORE), in the epicenter of the first wave, Italy (ITALIA SOLARE) and also in Spain (UNEF).
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Analysis was provided by experts including:
Prof. Jeffrey Sachs,
Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and a UN SDG Advocate
Francesco La Camera,
Director General of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
President & CEO, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)
The world’s solar industry can play a critical role in post-COVID-19 recovery, creating growth, jobs and a greener future
CLIMATE ACTION MEANS SOLAR JOBS
A central topic for recovery plans is of course employment. And it’s a topic that the Global Solar Council has already put at the heart of its mission, setting a target of boosting the sector’s employment to 10 million solar jobs by 2030 from 3.75 million in 2019 as estimated by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Solar PV is already the biggest renewable energy employer globally, having overtaken bioenergy in terms of jobs in 2015.
Getting to that 10 million-job level will require trillions of dollars in long-term, stable investments and multiple terawatts of PV generation. The Global Solar Council has adopted policy positions that support action and implementation towards this goal. They were presented at the COP24 climate summit in Poland in December 2018 and at the COP25 in Madrid in 2019.
These recommendations remain critical today. That’s why, as member of the IRENA Coalition for Action, the Global Solar Council was among 100 leading renewable energy organizations to actively support its joint call for action, putting forward concrete recommendations on how governments can ensure a rapid and sustained economic recovery that aligns with climate and sustainability objectives.
We were fully behind the Coalition for Action call when it was renewed in December, urging governments to reset their recovery priorities through six actions:
- Re-evaluate stimulus measures and correct course to ensure a green recovery in line with global climate objectives.
- Raise policy ambitions and clarify long-term plans for renewable generation and consumption, both centralised and decentralised.
- Ensure energy markets can deliver continuity and stimulate investment and growth in renewables.
- Prioritise renewable energy as a key component of industrial policies.
- Align labour and education policies with a just energy transition.
- Intensify international co-operation and action on COVID-19 while recognising renewable energy as a key part of the solution.
A new set of forecasts for the global PV industry was released in June with SolarPower Europe’s Global Market Outlook, actively supported by the Global Solar Council. Among the technologies that are creating excitement about the future prospects of solar power is floating PV installations, which we explored in a joint webinar with the International Solar Energy Society (ISES).
PV’S GLOBAL RIPPLE EFFECT
But solar power is about much more than jobs and investments and new technologies, as important as those issues are today: solar power is set to play a key role in unleashing an array of environmental, social and economic benefits and can accelerate our trajectory towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), thanks to PV’s ability to deliver not only our climate objectives but also bring advantages in terms of employment, health, education, gender equality and poverty alleviation.
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These issues were covered in the Global Solar Council’s first annual forum – in “virtual” mode for its inaugural edition of course – and the event involved speakers from the UN Secretariat’s Department of Social and Economic Affairs, IRENA, ISES, GOGLA (representing the global off-grid solar industry), the International Desalination Association (IDA), Climate Action Network International and Energy Watch Group.
Solar power lights the way towards the SDGs with broad benefits for green recovery plans
The relevance of solar for the SDGs is highlighted by a few key facts: 789 million people today remain without access to electricity (SDG 7), 300 million children are without power at primary school (SDG 4) and a staggering 90% of the global population is at risk due to air pollution (SDG 3). That said, 11.5 million people are already employed in renewable energy (SDG 8) and 32% of them are women (SDG 5) while 17.1% of final energy consumption comes from renewables (SDG 13).
Solar PV’s “ripple effect” – a potent factor in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and south east Asia – is well illustrated by the economic, social and health benefits gained by increasing access to energy through off-grid and micro-grid technologies and by providing clean water to all, for example using solar to create cost-effective, green desalination solutions on both a small and large scale.
Policy development for solar PV development in Africa: focus on feed-in tariffs and net metering and microgrids
Analysis was provided by experts including:
Senior Sustainable Development Officer, UN Secretariat, Department of Social and Economic Affairs
Director of the Knowledge Policy and Finance Centre, International Renewable
Energy Agency (IRENA)
Shannon K. McCarthy
Secretary General, International Desalination Association (IDA)
Dr. Stephan Singer
Senior Climate Science and Global Energy Policy Advisor, Climate Action Network International (CAN)
Head of the Board, Energy Watch Group
SUPPORTING NEW PROMISING MARKETS
To further promote the adoption of solar power in new, emerging markets, the Global Solar Council has set up three regional task forces focusing on: Africa, Latin America and South East Asia. The aim of each group is to stimulate cooperation among PV associations, share best practices and promote high potential emerging markets to international investors.
The Global Solar Council is an active partner in promoting mass adoption of solar power, fully aware of the widescale benefits that will flow from that future scenario. Not only for our industry and achieving climate goals but also for the sustainable development of our economies and the wellbeing of our communities.
We dedicated a webinar to each of these regions in order to highlight trends in policy and investments and explore in depth the current situation in specific national markets:
In Latin America, where the Global Solar Council is working in cooperation with news portal Energía Estratégica, we hosted representatives of national PV or renewable energy associations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico
In South East Asia, thanks to cooperation of APVIA and SolarQuarter, we had regional insights from the ASEAN Centre for Energy and country updates from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam
In Africa, as part of the GSC Virtual Forum, we had regional perspectives from experts from IRENA, SolarPower Europe, the German Solar Association and the Alliance for Rural Electrification and heard local experiences thanks to representatives from Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.