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Cheapest Solar Being Driven by Emerging Markets

30 Dec 12:00 by Steve Walia

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The move to clean and green renewable energy continues apace, and interesting new statistics show that the shift is actually occurring faster than original predictions. Already, the cheapest form of electricity in existence is solar power. And another surprise is the part of the world driving the market's growth - developing countries.

It turns out that the predictions about green energy adoption made a decade ago were actually very conservative. Those estimations by Greenpeace and the IEA said that solar PV capacity would stand at 20-60GW by the end of 2013. However, the actual installed capacity figure was over 200pc of this, at 140GW. By 2015 the figure had rocketed again to 227GW.

The drivers behind this incredible growth are varied, but they include lower costs of manufacturing, international agreements about renewable adoption and government subsidies for solar power.

Costs of solar cells are now just $0.26 per watt, compared to a whopping $76.67 in 1977. And they are falling still further with more cost-effective technologies and and increased Chinese manufacturing capacity. Competitive auction processes are further driving forward lower prices, with a contract for just $29.10 per MW being awarded in August, which is the lowest ever on record.

Emerging markets are now the trail-blazers, as their energy needs are growing and solar can offer many advantages, such as localised provision and no need for a national grid. Developing countries invested $154 billion collectively in 2015 in renewables, and this is set to grow.

Solar is set to become cheaper still, and scientists are now focusing on the opportunities available with better battery storage for solar systems. With this and work being done to drive further efficiencies from the technology, solar power looks to become an increasingly key player going forward.