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The Key Contribution of Solar PV to Remain in a Decarbonization Path Compatible with the Paris Agreement
M. Victoria
Finance, Markets and Policies
Subtopic: Policies and Scenarios for Renewables, Societal and Global Challenges
Event: 38th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition
Session: 7EO.1.2
ISBN: 3-936338-78-7
0,00 EUR
Document(s): presentation


Climate actions taken before 2030 will determine whether humanity remains in a transition path that is compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5C or this goal moves out of our reach [1]. Prominent among the technologies that could enable significant mitigation in the short term is solar photovoltaics (PV). Thanks to fast learning and sustained high growth in the last decade, solar electricity is now the cheapest option in most of the world and the penetration of solar PV in large power systems is rapidly increasing [2–4]. In 2019, solar electricity already supplied 20%, 9% and 8.5% of electricity demand in California, Germany and Italy [5–7]. In Europe, solar PV deployment is expected to be a major contribution to electricity decarbonization in the next decade. For instance, the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) for Spain and Italy forecast a solar penetration higher than 22% by 2030 [8, 9]. Those NECPs were designed with the common EU reduction target of curbing emissions by 40% in 2030, relative to 1990 levels. However, the recent agreement to increase climate ambition (reducing emissions by 55% in 2030 [10]) will most probably require even a faster deployment of solar PV in the short term. In our recent work [11], we investigated the impact of following different transition paths under the same carbon budget, Figure 1. We considered a budget of 33 GtCO2 for the cumulative carbon dioxide emissions from the European electricity, heating, and transport sectors between 2020 and 2050, which represents Europe’s contribution to the Paris Agreement. We found that following an Early and Steady path in which emissions are strongly reduced in the first decade is more cost-effective than following a Late and Rapid path in which low ambition in the initial decade quickly depletes the carbon budget and requires a sharp reduction later. We showed that solar PV, onshore and offshore wind can become the cornerstone of a fully decarbonized energy system and that proper representation of existing balancing strategies is required to avoid underestimating the potential role of variable renewable technologies. In essence, our model [12] includes uninterrupted hourly-resolution, network representation and detailed sector-coupling modelling that allows decarbonization of other sectors through direct or indirect electrification. Moreover, the input data, model, output data and discussion are open ensuring transparency and reproducibility of our results.