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COP15: Solar groups want climate conference to recognise contribution of solar energy

Two dozen solar energy associations from around the world have told the United Nations at COP15 in Copenhagen that a significant portion of GHG emissions could be eliminated through an accelerated deployment of solar energy.

Mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and finance are the four pillars that will be required to allow the positive benefits from solar energy to contribute to the goals of the COP15 UN climate negotiations underway in Copenhagen, explains Seizing the Solar Solution: Combatting Climate Change through Accelerated Deployment.

The report was prepared by the US-based Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the European Photovoltaic Industries Association (EPIA), with content provided by national solar electric and solar thermal associations in Europe, Australia, Canada, China, Shanghai, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Uganda.

“The danger of climate change threatens every nation and, therefore, every nation faces the daunting task of choosing how to respond,” it explains. “With this crisis comes a significant opportunity - the opportunity to change the energy direction of the entire planet.”

“When it comes to near-term solutions on climate change, the verdict is clear,” it continues. “For the next 10 to 15 years, countries that want to generate pollution-free energy and enjoy the benefit of the jobs that come with renewable energy, the best option is solar energy.”

“Solar technologies are ready NOW; the technology’s fuel is unlimited and the technology can be deployed fast enough to meet both increasing demand and aggressive climate goals,” they state. “This can be done in a centralised and in a distributed way and at any scale, from kilowatt to megawatt. If we really want to tackle the general future of the environment, we have to acknowledge solar as a key tool in the fight against climate change.”

The report summarises the status in each participating country, to show the level of current solar capacity and the targets set by national industry associations. The European Union has committed to raise the share of energy from renewable energy to 20% by 2020 and the European solar PV industry says it can generate 12% of EU electricity by then, which will mean 5.5 million jobs and a GHG reduction of 220 Mt per year. The United States has set a target of 12% of electricity from solar PV and CSP, and another 3% of electricity avoided by the use of solar thermal technology.

India will install 20 GW of solar by 2020 and China has a target of 20 GW of solar PV capacity by 2020.

“Renewable energies, and especially solar energy, represent an exciting opportunity to reshape the economy in a more sustainable way while generating added value and employment,” the report explains. “Policies that favour solar energy can save billions of tons of CO2, create thousands of jobs, draw billions in investment, and drive economies.”

A global climate change treaty requires that each country enact strong solar energy policies, and “different policies have proven their ability to trigger the solar market in different countries,” it notes in the letter sent to Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations and officials of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP15 conference in Copenhagen. Solar energy offers “a concrete way forward” through four basic pillars of climate negotiations:

  1. Mitigation: “Solar energy is the single cleanest form of energy generation and the technology is ready now. Solar technology’s fuel source is unlimited and can provide energy at any scale, from the kilowatt to megawatt.”
  2. Adaptation: “Solar energy provides the opportunity for heating, cooling, and electricity to be generated anywhere there is sunshine, from large utility-scale power plants to distributed generation on rooftops and fields.”
  3. Technology transfer: “Solar provides the opportunity for developing countries to leapfrog traditional energy dependence on fossil fuels to producing energy with clean solar energy. Distributed solar energy is appropriate for developing rural regions as the traditional infrastructure associated with fossil fuels is unnecessary.”
  4. Finance: “Solar technology is becoming more affordable in every nation. Not only does deploying solar energy bring clean energy, but it also creates jobs. Solar can quickly transform the quality of life and economic conditions in developing countries by providing electricity, and thus access to light, communications, computers, and machines, which allow modern education, agriculture, health care, commerce, and industry.”

“With the right policies and support from governments, and given the rich solar resources around the world, solar energy presents a unique opportunity for all countries,” it concludes. “As a global climate deal moves forward, we call on the Secretary General, the UNFCCC, and country delegations to recognize the contribution that solar energy can make as part of the climate negotiations.”

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling